Owl Outlook 2012: Men's Cross Country
KEENE, N.H. 8/27/12 - The Keene State College men’s cross country team enters its 2012 season looking to make up ground and re-establish itself as a top regional program as well as a contender for the Little East Conference championship.
The Owls, who finished 11th at last year’s New England regional race and relinquished their LEC title to Southern Maine, leave the startling line with a good deal of optimism. Keene State has not only doubled its roster size, but also return several runners from last year’s lead pack.
“I’m very happy with our returning runners, “said KSC Coach Peter Thomas. “They are a focused, hard-working group that has a little more talent than we’ve had the last couple of years.
While the Owls will certainly miss last season’s leading man Kevin Hoyt, an NCAA qualifier, who was named the LEC’s runner of the year, they do return a pair of experienced runners Thomas Paquette (Bolton, Conn.) and junior Ryan Widzgowski (Camden, Me.), and also welcome back juniors Brett Mastrangelo (Millis, Mass.) and Chris Plankey (Bristol, N.H.), two track runners who return to the trails after not competing the past couple of seasons.
Coming off a strong spring season that saw him qualify for New England championships in the steeplechase, senior Chance Wilk (Burnt Hills, N.Y.) will be in the running as the teams’ fifth man.
Looking to get a good start off the line, Paquette, Plankey Mastrangelo, and Widzgowski stayed in Keene to train together over the summer. “You can’t just show up at the start of practice and have a good season, said Paquette, “The summer was all about putting in the mileage and building a base for the season.”
“It’s easier to wake-up in the morning and run when you know someone is waiting for you,” said Mastrangelo. “Having the trails up here and the camaraderie of each other is great. We want to run well together as a team.”
In addition to returnees senior Andrew Sears (Derry, N.H.), juniors Jay Borden (Keene, N.H.), Jian Giglia (Damariscotta, Maine), and Nick Riendeau, Thomas has added a large freshmen class, including several runners who will vie for spots on the varsity. Top freshmen include Ryan Brady (Durham, N.H.), an All-State runner and member of the Division II champion Oyster River High School team, Hayden Paterson (Dover, N.H.), a top runner at Dover High the past four years, Brandon Davis-O’Donoghue (Nashua, N.H.), a two-time, second-team Nashua Telegraph All-Star from Nashua North, and Mark Rabasco (Pittsfield, Mass.) an All-Berkshire league runner rom Taconic High.
Thomas said all four have a chance to make the varsity. There will be at least one freshman in our fifth-sixth, and seventh spots or they could fill all three positions,” he said.
A perennial qualifier to the NCAA championships from 1997-2005, the Owls earned a return trip to the national race in 2009. The Owls have sent individual at-large runners to the NCAA championship the past two seasons.
Mastrangleo said the team has to take it one step at a time. “We need to start with small goals like running together and trying to get the LEC championship back, ‘ he said. “You don’t want to look too far ahead.”
To help inspire his team, Thomas showed several of his top runners a video of former KSC All-Americas Wilson Perez and Josh Ferenc. “Those were the glory days of Keene State cross country and obviously our goal is to get back to nationals and put the program back on the cross country map, “Paquette said. “But at the same time it’s always good to be in the shadows. Right now we’re running under the radar. We have nothing to lose this year.”