Courtesy of Rob McGuinness
NEWPORT, R.I. – Nor'easters, rain and gale-force winds will factor into the forecast when the Salve Regina women's cross country team races for the Commonwealth Coast Conference Cross Country Championship on Saturday.
The Nor'easters, of course, are the six-time defending champions from the University of New England. But the actual weather in Wenham, Mass., may make the title race a battle against the elements as well. The Massachusetts Bay and Ipswich Bay are under a gale watch, anticipating winds of 20 to 30 knots (23 to 34 mph) and gusts of up to 45 knots (51 mph). The forecast calls for 1 to 2 inches of rain, with a high temperature of just 49 degrees.
"It will be muddy. It will be wet. It will be cold. We know it's coming. We will be ready," said head coach Rob McGuinness. "Cross country runners are used to racing in all kinds of course conditions and horrendous weather. It comes with the territory in our sport."
The Seahawks who sprint across the campus quad of Gordon College on Saturday morning look to bring Salve Regina its first cross country conference championship since 2011. Alex Demeo (Burlington, Mass.) and Olivia Owen (Weymouth, Mass.) have been the team's frontrunners throughout the fall campaign, and both are healthy and poised for postseason success.
Two-time CCC Rookie of the Week Christina Moran (Oceanside, N.Y.), classmate Cate Norton (Newtown, Conn.) and sophomore Sydney DeCesare (Johnston, R.I.) have been consistent – and often, interchangeable – in the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 spots for Salve Regina.
"Our varsity regulars have been outstanding. I am so impressed with this lineup," McGuinness said. "Alex and Liv are strong and focused. Syd, Chrissy and Cate look better each week. We are right where we need to be."
Junior Cianna Lynch (Cranston, R.I.), senior Annie Mozzer (Agawam, Mass.) and sophomores Kat Bruce (Dalton, Mass.) and Fran Moore (Old Saybrook, Conn.) will likely hold the final spots for Salve Regina. Lynch has been steady at No. 6 – and could run in a higher position – while Mozzer, Bruce and Moore have traded places at No. 7.
"This is a meet where every spot counts," McGuinness said. "Displacement can make the difference in a close race. Everyone on our team has a job to do. If you wind up at No. 6 or No. 7, you absolutely must finish strong."
The defending champions from UNE loom large in the championship picture. The Nor'easters stormed to victory in the Pop Crowell Invitational in September, a meet that afforded several CCC teams a preview of the championship course. Seniors Emily Wasina and Kiera Murray lead the UNE lineup.
The top harriers from around the conference will vie for conference honors, with the top 15 finishers recognized as the All-CCC team. Junior Sarah Mawdsley, a two-time CCC Runner of the Week, leads Roger Williams University. Junior Brooke Townsend sets the pace for Western New England University. Sophomore Emma Farrington and senior Aleah MacKay are the frontrunners for Endicott College, and senior Julia Drewicke and freshman Bridget Hill lead the way for Gordon College.
Gordon College hosts the conference championship on Saturday. The women race at 11 a.m.