One more race. That’s it.
The Emerson College men’s and women’s cross-country teams will end their seasons at the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Championship on Nov. 1 at Smith College.
The biggest obstacles for the Lions are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineers, whose men have won the last 16 NEWMAC Championships. MIT’s women runners have won the last seven.
“MIT is one of the top schools in not only the conference, but in the country,” said Matt Sell, Emerson’s associate cross country head coach.
Every team in the NEWMAC is invited to the championship meet, but the Lions’ first attempt at capturing the conference title last year fell flat. Both the men’s and women’s teams finished in last place, and assistant coach Brandon Fox doesn’t see his teams doing any better this year, because they have fewer runners than other schools. With fewer participants, there are statistically fewer opportunities for Emerson to place in the top 10. In the championship meet, points are only awarded to the first 10 finishers.
“We’re going to come in last for both teams,” said Fox. “It’s all about [participation] numbers, and right now we’re just not in it.”
While the Lions know they can’t come home with the trophy on Saturday, that isn’t stopping the runners from trying to earn their best marks of the season, according to head coach John Furey.
“Each runner is trying to achieve personal best times,” said Furey, “which will help the team performance.”
Win or lose, the teams will be happy as long as they stay healthy Saturday.
“Our number one goal is to always keep them injury-free,” said Sell.
For Ali Dokus, Jacob Hines, and Danielle Lavieri, the seniors on the team, the NEWMAC championship is the last race of their college careers.
“It’s bittersweet because it’s my last one,” said Dokus. “I’m kind of numb to it. I’ve been running since ninth grade competitively and I don’t want to leave.”
Dokus has had a successful season, leading the women’s team in every race while collecting four top-10 finishes throughout the season.
“[Dokus] has an excellent chance to be top 10 or 12 in our conference meet,” said Furey.
Going into the NEWMAC championship, Dokus said her teammates are focused on their own performance and not that of the competition.
“I’m focusing on how our team does. Hopefully all my girls hit their [personal record] and we’ll place modestly within the rankings,” said Dokus, the team’s captain.
With the 2014 cross-country season nearing its end, the men’s team has placed first, second, eighth, seventh, and 14th in its meets. The women’s team has finished first, second, sixth, fifth, and tenth.
“The season has been good,” said Sell. “Kids are running hard, we’ve had great attendance all year, so everybody seems to be enjoying it.”
With each successive season seeing an increased number of runners, Fox said he thinks the future is bright for the cross-country program.
“We picked up a few good kids,” Fox said. “We have a strong freshman group, and it’s going to be great seeing them progress over the next four years.”
Deputy sports editor Mike Lucas contributed to this report.