The University of Maine women’s cross country team took second by a score of 33-26 at their season-opening meet at the University of Massachusetts on Saturday. Senior co-captain Corey Conner took first overall with a time of 17:28.29 on the 5-km course.
With the first meet of the year wrapped up, Conner and the rest of the team look to improve this year. Conner sees a bright future ahead for the team, especially with plenty of new faces.
“Last year was a developing year so we didn’t place that high, but this year we have a lot of young girls. Although it’s still a developing year we have a lot of good, fresh talent,” Conner said.
“We have returning runners who are coming back stronger and the freshmen are looking really strong so I think we’ll do a lot better than we did last year. I’m not sure how high [we’ll place] — you kind of have to see after the first couple races.”
As for what to expect with this year’s team, few lofty goals have been set except to continue to improve and compete well within the conference. According to Conner, with freshmen and sophomores outnumbering the juniors and seniors, this year is going to be about gaining experience.
“We have a really big team this year, which is surprising because we usually never have that many girls come out. There are a lot of young, fresh faces, so my expectation is for everyone to feel out their first year of collegiate running. I don’t have any big goals for us but to just develop more,” Conner said.
Connor thinks the impact of the improving returning runners will help the team significantly. Annabelle Wilson, a new recruit from Australia, has been added to the mix and is looking to make an impact right away.
“We did get a recruit in from Australia. She is a freshman, eligibility-wise, but she is older and has been training for a while, so I think she will make a great impact,” Conner said. “The returners like co-captain Kourtney Bonsey, Rachel Wilkinson, Kate Spies, Carolyn Stocker, and basically all of our returners have stepped up and improved over the summer. We’ve seen in their workouts that they’ve made great improvements, so I think any one of them can step up and help us this year.”
This year will only feature one home meet for the Black Bears against rival University of New Hampshire. A win against UNH would help their standing in the conference and the feeling of beating a rival will help to boost confidence.
“We definitely place a big emphasis on it. We love our home course, it’s really nice, and UNH is always our rival. It’s always a big meet for us and since we only have one this year, it’s going to be one of the highlights of our season,” Conner said.
As for how the Black Bears and the rest of the conference will perform remains to be seen as the season plays out. However, a couple of teams that have been traditional power-houses that will be targeted by UMaine and the rest of America East throughout this season.
“In the conference I would say it’s probably going to be [Boston University] or [State University of New York at] Stony Brook. They usually do well every year. Those are the two to go for,” Conner said.
The Black Bears next meet will be at UNH next Friday at 2 p.m. Their only home meet will be Friday, Sept. 21 at 3 p.m.