The UMBC men's and women's cross country squads open their 2017 campaigns in traditional style, as both squads travel to Emmitsburg, Md., to take part in the Mount St. Mary's Dual 5k's on Friday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.
The Retrievers have debuted at Mount St. Mary's in each of the last four seasons and 11 of the last 13 campaigns.
The men's field will consist of American, Franklin Pierce, George Washington, Mount St. Mary's and UMBC, while the women's field features the same squads in addition to Maryland and Navy.
Head Coach Matt Gittermann celebrates his tenth year at the helm by welcoming back 16 letterwinners and introducing five freshmen to the 2017 men's squad.
The 2016 Retrievers produced some solid performances during campaign, and, in typical UMBC fashion, the team appeared to be peaking for the conference championships. But the squad faltered as they hosted the championships in Kingsville, Md., placing eighth of the nine squads.
"The conference meet's performance was disappointing, but it proved to be a galvanizing situation for what was a young squad," said Gittermann. "The group as a whole made tremendous progress from the fall to the end of the spring. Many athletes became very competitive at the conference level in the indoor and outdoor seasons, when they were non-impactful in the fall."
Senior Urgy Eado earned the team's Most Valuable Athlete award as he paced the team throughout the regular season in 2016. He produced UMBC's second-best time ever at the Princeton Invitational, placing 14th of 227 competitors. Juniors Matt Kingeter and Nathan Nadal produced excellent seasons last fall. Kingeter produced UMBC's best finish at the league championships, while Nadal was Mr. Consistency, scoring in all five competitions.
Gittermann expects that trio to lead the 2017 Retrievers.
But he also expects they will be challenged by junior Matt Kane and sophomores Matt Bennett and Elijah Hawkins. Kane placed third in the 5k at the America East Championships last spring, while Hawkins finished ninth in the 10k, but with a very competitive time. Bennett had outstanding races in Emmitsburg and Princeton as a freshman and the Retriever mentor expects him to make a better overall impact as a sophomore.
The Retrievers have their sights set on the America East Championships in Burlington, Vt. on Oct. 28 and return to the NCAA Mid-Atlantic regionals two weeks later.
"Our goal is to carry over the development from track coupled with the growth over the summer and challenge Stony Brook and UMass Lowell for the conference title."