by Jilleen Barrett, Asst. A&E Editor
The upcoming semester is certainly shaping up to be strange. What it means to be a college student in the United States has completely changed. Between remote classes, mask mandates, and social distancing, nothing is the same as it used to be, including for student-athletes.
The Manhattan College Cross Country program was devastated to learn about the MAAC’s decision to cancel fall sports on Jul. 27 even though they expected it to be the likely outcome all along.
“It was a lot different than what happened in March,” Manhattan Cross Country Head Coach Kerri Gallagher said. “Whereas in March it was very sudden—that news hit very hard— in this case, it was the anticipation of the news that was probably the hardest throughout the summer, so to hear it officially wasn’t a big surprise for us, although it never feels good to find out.”
Gallagher, who Director of Cross Country Matt Centrowitz referred to as “Virtual Kerri” given her management of most of the team’s online functions, has been with the Jaspers since 2016. No stranger to competition, Gallagher previously coached the cross country program at American University for five years and also enjoyed a professional career as a runner competing globally. Although the fall cancellation certainly feels strange for everyone, Gallagher is working hard with her runners to make sure they are prepared for future seasons.
Centrowitz also has an impressive resume that has earned the respect of many in the running world. During these tumultuous months, Centrowitz seems to be avoiding getting wrapped up in the stress of the situation and instead is keeping his eye on the prize while ensuring his runners do the same.
“One of the best things that Kerri and I’ve been doing is getting them used to our training pattern and being consistent,” Centrowitz said. “It’s hard to be consistently thinking and training athletes. Every day is a new environment, a new situation and it’s just a lot of stress to these kids instead of having fun. They’re following more rules than ever. And they’re concerned about their safety and their good health.”
Junior runner Marc Carrera believes the MAAC is doing right by the students in opting to wipe out the fall season. Right now, he is trying to remain positive and focused on the sport itself even though there will be no official races.
“I just had to bite the bullet, you know, swallow the pill, even if it hurt,” Carrera said. “And there are some pros in this situation and there will be a lot of time to reflect now on ourselves and our training.”
Michael Hennelly, a junior runner and accounting major, appreciates his coaches and the opportunity to work with them despite the challenges 2020 has posed.
“I mean, you know, coming from my high school where I guess we didn’t take running as seriously it’s definitely ver y different, but I’m blessed to say that I’m able to run for them in this program,” Hennelly said.
Andria Scaglione, a sophomore runner and exercise science major, expressed similar sentiments when reflecting on the impact of her coaches.
“It’s great running for both of them,” Scaglione said. “Since they have so much experience and they were in our shoes once, it’s like they understand what we’re going through and they’re just very supportive.”
Additionally, many cross country runners and fans are disappointed that there will be no Manhattan Cross Country Invitational this fall. According to the invitational’s Facebook page, it has been a tradition since the late Ed Bowes ‘64 established it in 1973. Gallagher confirmed that the annual event, which is enjoyed by many high schoolers, will instead have virtual festivities this year to continue the cherished tradition and develop relationships with prospective recruits.
“Manhattan is going to be putting up an open house and there’s gonna be an athletic aspect of it and so basically our virtual expo will be housed in that,” Gallagher said. “So it’s going to be kind of through that admissions initiative, and we’re really excited about it.”
The future is a mystery as far as whether later seasons will be canceled as well, but many are trying to remain optimistic. Alexandra Preckajlo, a senior thrower on the track and field team, is looking forward to the possibility of still getting to compete later in the semester in the indoor competitions.
“We lost six seniors and we’re getting back three athletes that I’m aware of, and I’m excited to see what we’ll do with the young team,” Preckajlo said. “We were very excited for outdoor so I’m excited to put that energy into our indoor because there are new people on the team.”
Although there will be a lot of challenges in the road ahead, Gallagher manifests her belief in the promising future of the Manhattan cross country team in the way she leads her team during the good times and the bad. She is preaching the importance of togetherness now more than ever.
“This is a new challenge that we’re facing. It’s been tough from the coaching end and it’s certainly been tough for the athletes, but the one thing that’s worked for us is to stay together.”