University of Maine cross country coach Mark Lech is a fairly optimistic guy.
So it should come to no surprise that he expects his Black Bears — particularly the women — to have an outstanding day at this weekend’s America East championships at the University of Vermont in Burlington.
The UMaine women, paced by one of the Northeast’s top runners in sophomore Corey Conner of North Townsend, Mass., have a legitimate shot to place in the top three.
“It should be fairly close between teams 1 and 4, I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of points making the difference,” Lech said.
The Bears will be at full strength this weekend, as No. 2 runner Jordan Daniel didn’t compete in the New England Open Championships in Boston two weeks ago due to an academic commitment.
Corinna’s Daniel, Vanessa Letourneau of Fairfield, Allison Conner — Corey’s sister — Whitney Chamberlain of Scarborough, Jennie Lucy of Bangor, Hilary Maxim of Old Town, Cynthia Hunter of Waterville and Brenna Walsh of Nova Scotia comprise Maine’s pack behind the younger Conner.
In order for the Bears to place high, Daniel, Letourneau and Allison Conner will have to stick with the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 runners of contenders Boston University, New Hampshire and Stony Brook.
The Black Bears have certainly gotten their money’s worth out of Chamberlain.
“She has been doing better each week too, kind of getting her land-legs under her, so to speak,” Lech said.
Stony Brook appears to be the team to beat, with Boston University close behind.
On the men’s side, sophomore standout Riley Masters of Veazie is a meet-time decision as he has missed Maine’s last few races due to health concerns.
“I just don’t want to push him along too fast,” Lech said. “I’ll make the decision by Friday, we don’t have to decide by Saturday.”
Regardless, the Bears should still have a pretty solid pack, led by seniors Miles Bartlett of Casco and Corey Bean of Cornville, complemented by the young guns, such as Spencer McElwain of Caribou, David Currier of Sidney and Taylor Phillips of Connecticut.
McElwain is only a sophomore while Currier and Phillips are freshmen.
“Spencer’s come a long way from last year, he’s running almost two to three minutes faster than last year, so he’s come along well,” Lech said.
The teams to beat, Lech said, are New Hampshire, Stony Brook and Binghamton, which features another local runner in Casey Quaglia of Bangor.
“I think from results I saw earlier [in the season] he’s back running where he should be,” Lech said.
Snow storm in the Carolinas
A lot of former Maine high school runners have been making significant impacts in the collegiate ranks this fall at the Division II and III levels, perhaps none bigger than in Charlotte, N.C., last weekend.
Former Brewer High runner Katie Snow, a freshman at Division II Queens University of Charlotte, helped lead her team to the Conference Carolinas Championship on its home course on Saturday.
Queens won its first-ever conference crown, edging Lees-McRae college 50 points to 52.
Snow was Queens’ No. 4 runner Saturday, posting a time of 20 minutes, 1 second over a 5K course and finishing 12th overall among 91 runners.
Bangor native Jennie Foley has had an outstanding freshman campaign at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham, and she was the Huskies’ No. 3 runner at the State of Maine championship meet at Colby College earlier this month, while another former Brewer runner, Brooke Madden, has had a fine freshman season at USM as well, along with former teammate Kait Noyes at the University of New England in Biddeford.