Men's Cross Country Preview
When the best cross country athlete to compete for UMBC at the Division I level graduates, there is definitely a void created.
Hassan Omar became the first Retriever to earn medalist honors at the 2015 America East Championships and proceeded to earn All-American status with a 27th place finish at the national championships.
But Head Coach Matt Gittermann is not going to place the mantle of a new "top dawg" on the shoulders of one runner.
"I don't think it would be fair to put that responsibility and impact on a single individual," Gittermann said. "With his loss, we are looking to address it with a more balanced, team attack rather than having one person step and fill that void."
Several veterans filled supporting roles for the Retrievers in 2015 and hope to be a part of the team attack that Coach Gittermann is advocating. Despite Omar's exploits, UMBC hopes to improve upon a fifth-place team finish at the America East Championships.
Senior Jon Luckin performed solidly in 2015 and the America East All-Academic selection place 20th at the league championships. Classmate Patrick Duboyce, who has improved each year, placed in the top five for UMBC in three meets last season. Junior Urgy Eado peaked in post-season competition, and was the third Retriever across the line at the NCAA Regionals.
Coach Gittermann feels the Retrievers will be buoyed by a host of freshmen, including red-shirts Matt Kane and Lorenzo Neil. Kane opened the 2015 season by finishing behind only Omar in the Mount 5k duals, but was only competed a few more times in cross country and track during his freshman campaign. Neil did not compete at all in the fall, but put together solid times in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters on the track in the winter and spring.
Two Maryland high school state champions selected UMBC and Gittermann is happy to have the 3A champion, Matt Bennett, and the 2A titlist, Brian Cave in the fold. Bennett has been especially impressive in training and the front pack of Retrievers may have a brand new look in 2016.
The Schedule and Final Takes
UMBC opens the campaign in Emmitsburg at Mount St. Mary's 5k Duals on Sept. 2 and comes back eight days later at Navy. After October meets at Lehigh and Princeton, UMBC will host the America East Conference Championships for the first time since 2008. The meet will take place at Jerusalem Mill in Kingsville, Md. on Oct. 29 and Gittermann is hoping his squad can take advantage of its location.
"With UMBC being a geographical outlier in the conference, the ability to travel a short distance to the site is a decided advantage," he said. "This also grants us the ability to be more familiar with the course than other AE schools as they will not see and experience the course until the day prior."
The Retriever mentor is hesitant about setting team goals before the season gets underway. "I want the team to naturally feel out their strengths and go from there. Once we create this team identity after the first few races, we'll take a more focused look at team goals."
Mount 5K Duals Preview
The teams open the campaign at the Mount 5k Duals in Emmitsburg, Md. on Friday, Sept. 2. The meets get underway at 1:00 p.m. Joining UMBC in the field are American, Franklin Pierce, George Washington, Maryland, Mount St. Mary's and Navy.
In 2015, the women won all six match-ups, while the men won three of four.
UMBC's Sarah Daly won the women's race in a time of 18:27.4. Senior Katelyn Callaghan finished seventh overall (19:14.8) and classmates Cindy Alms and Chelsea Vane placed 12th and 13th respectively.
On the men's side, Hassan Omar placed second in 2015 and red-shirt freshman Matthew Kane christened his career with a sixth-place finish (16:11.6). American University won the men's competition with a 4-0 record.
Both teams will compete at Navy's meets on Saturday, Sept. 10.