November 19, 2007

Cross Country Season in Review

Nov. 19, 2007

When the last runner crossed the finish line at the NCAA Regional, the 2007 cross country season was over for the Santa Clara Broncos. It was a season characterized by strong individual performances, talented newcomers, and veterans stepping up in a variety of ways.

From the very first race of the year, it was evident that this season had great potential. At the USF Invitational, Santa Clara swept the event, winning the men's and women's team races and also boasting the top individuals. Michael Delaurenti won the men's race a full 28 seconds ahead of the second place finisher and Adriane Puetz won the women's race by 15 seconds.

It was quite the coming out party for each. Delaurenti had been one of the top cross country runners for a while, but his jump to front was not a certainty at the beginning of the season. His first place domination at USF proved that he was ready to put his mark on the season. For Puetz, her ascent to the top was even more unexpected. Puetz had been the sixth or seventh runner for the women in years past, but had never been able to really reach her true potential until this season. Head coach Tom Service alluded to how fit she was at the beginning of the season, but it would be a stretch to say that anybody expected her to excel at that level. USF was Puetz's message to everyone that she was for real.

USF was also a chance to see some of the newcomers to the program show what they could do. Freshman Melissa Conlin, running in her first collegiate race, placed 5th overall and second on the team. Two freshmen for the men, Robert Reid and Christopher Mosier, both finished in the top ten of the tournament, showing that even though seniors Delaurenti and Puetz were the front runners, youth would still be served.

The next race at Sundodger would prove to be a big test for the team running against some of the top teams in the region. The women ended up taking fourth place and the men placed seventh. Puetz again put on a show, placing seventh overall for her second straight top ten finish. The story of the meet for the men was not their place, but their time. They set a new 8k team record and showed that the team was making great strides early in the season.

After Sundodger, the teams split up, with the women running in the Notre Dame Inviational and the men competing in the Stanford Invitational. The women placed third at Notre Dame, their best showing ever after placing fourth the year before. Puetz put another top ten finish her belt, placing ninth overall. Annie Murphy-Hagan rejoined the team for the first time all year, finishing second on the team in her first race back. The men placed 13th at Stanford against some of the top teams in the nation. Delaurenti ran another solid race, finishing 46th overall, just ten seconds in front of the rapidly improving Chris Sampson.

Next came the annual Bronco Invitational that Santa Clara hosts. The women continued to impress with a third place finish, not finishing lower than fourth to that point. The men came in seventh in the field of 17 teams. Delaurenti put together his best outing of the year, taking second place overall with a time of 24:49, almost an entire minute faster than his time at the Bronco last year. Puetz placed fourth for the women, setting a new personal record for the 5k. Veronica Vazquez had an impressive showing, setting a personal best for her and finishing second for the women. The race was a success for the team and the rest of the day was a fun event including a team and alumni barbeque and a fun run before the races.

After the Bronco Invitational, it was time to move into the championship part of the season. At the WCC Championships, the teams tied their output from the year before, with the men finishing third and the women fourth. Mike Delaurenti and Melissa Conlin earned All-WCC 1st team honors for their efforts. Delaurenti ran his best race ever at the Crystal Springs course, finishing third overall in a meet stacked with talent. Conlin took over the leadership role on the course for the women after Adrie Puetz went down with an injury a few days prior. She improved upon her third place team finish two weeks earlier at the Bronco and taking home her first top ten finish (8th) since the USF Invitational. Chris Sampson and Alex Harkins earned All-WCC Honorable mention for their 14th and 15th place finishes respectively. And for the women, Veronica Vazquez, Danielle Miller, and Annie Murphy-Hagan all just missed out on All-WCC honors, finishing 16th, 17th, and 18th overall.

The NCAA Regional meet was the final part of the Bronco's season. The men finished 19th and the women, still running without Puetz, took 22nd. It wasn't quite the storybook ending that many envisioned after the strong start got the teams thinking big. Delaurenti placed 69th, finishing first on the team in every race of the season. Melissa Conlin and Annie Murphy-Hagan were one and two for the women, but one pleasant surprise for the team was senior Blossom Marimpietri stepping into the third spot for the women in her final race at Santa Clara.

Service was proud of what his teams accomplished this year, and what some runners were able to accomplish individually.

"Mike has been such a huge part of our program for so long," said Service. "It was great to see him have the year he did, culminating with his third place finish at the conference championships. Adrie was an incredibly positive surprise for us. It would have bee nice to see her be able to compete in the championship races, but we're very proud of what she was able to accomplish. Melissa was incredible all year, at the front of the pack all year, and we're very excited to see what she can accomplish. Veronica came on strong near the end of the year and is just a really tough runner. Blossom had a great finish to her career at regionals. Annie was right with the pack all season and as she matures I expect big things from her. Danielle Miller and Whitney Porter will be excellent seniors coming back next year to help lead the younger runners, they are very close to achieving what they're capable of. The men set the stage for the future with some incredibly talented young kids that benefited a lot by learning from Mike and A.J. Blumel. The future looks very bright for both teams."