By Jilleen Barrett, Managing Editor/Features Editor
Manhattan College’s cross country teams are ready to race to the top this season. After a preseason focused on team building and preparation, graduate student Michael Hennelly and senior Andria Scaglione feel optimistic about continuing to put some pride to the Jasper name.
Scaglione, who consistently has been a top finisher for the team since her freshman year, is anticipating some changes now that she has three new teammates on the women’s team replacing the four who graduated in the spring.
“I feel like I got a lot of solid work in over the summer, and am excited to be back training and racing with the team,” Scaglione said. “With a large number of seniors graduating last year and newcomers joining the program, we have a new team dynamic that I am excited to explore throughout the season.”
Kerri Gallagher, who coaches the men and women’s cross country teams, believes the ten freshmen on the roster this year are doing well so far.
“Our freshmen are doing a great job of rising to the challenge of collegiate athletics,” Gallagher said. “It takes a mix of confidence and humility to be a collegiate athlete that can be hard to balance. This class came in with a great attitude and so far are putting out a great effort.”
Hennelly, who is the only graduate student on the men’s team that also attended Manhattan for his undergraduate degree, believes the youthfulness of the men’s team will not hold them back from winning this year.
“Every person has their own experiences and brings something unique to the team,” Hennelly said. “All the freshmen have done a great job thus far of adjusting to a new lifestyle and a new training program. I’m confident they’ll have some great races to show for it.”
Scaglione noted the team took a trip to the Highline and Chelsea Market together in an effort to get to know each other better.
“The freshmen have adjusted seamlessly with the team pretty much since the beginning of the season,” Scaglione said. “We have already built a strong sense of comfortability and camaraderie within our new team in only our first two weeks training together. During preseason, we definitely got to know the freshmen better, not only at practice, but also during team dinners in Locke’s [Loft] and going into the city.”
With a busy schedule ahead of the teams this semester, one of the races Hennelly is already thinking about is the Metropolitan Championship, which is scheduled for Oct. 7. The men’s team won the championship last year, with Hennelly coming in third overall, which is why he feels strongly about doing well again this season.
Gallagher has the same goal in mind.
“This cross country season we hope to focus in on Mets and MAACs (Metro Atlantic Athletic Championship) as our two main opportunities to make an impact as a team,” Gallagher said. “I really want us to fine tune our ability to work as a team throughout the season so at those championship meets we are ready to go.”
Scaglione is thinking ahead to the MAACs as well, and said that is her biggest goal for the team as a whole. She has a few goals for herself as she prepares for the championship in the spring, one of them being to keep things simple.
“Last season I got extremely wrapped up in expectations and where I thought I should be versus where I presently was both physically and mentally, which caused a lot of unneeded stress and anxiety around the sport I love,” Scaglione said. “Within the past year I have learned a lot of valuable lessons that have sculpted me into the runner I am today, and I am excited to use those experiences to my advantage this season.”
The runners are not the only ones learning more about themselves and their positions. Gallagher is entering her second year as director of the program, a role she serves in addition to coaching, and she is ready to put what she learned in her first year into practice this season.
“I have a mix of feelings heading into year two as Director of the XC/TF program,” she said. “It’s an awesome opportunity and a significant responsibility … I learned a lot in my first year and am looking forward to putting that knowledge to good use this upcoming year.”
Ultimately, she has an array of positive feelings about the teams’ abilities, and she thinks everyone involved is ready for a season of success.
“[I feel] a mix of excitement, gratitude, anticipation, optimism and a little bit of nerves … I am surrounded by a great team of coaches and athletes that are ready to build something great on the foundation of our rich history.”