MANCHESTER, N.H. - A historic Sunday for the Saint Michael's College men's and women's cross country teams was capped by the women claiming second place among 15 schools at the Northeast-10 Conference Championship, their best performance at a league meet since 1986, and their top finish since joining the NE-10 in 1987. Both Purple Knight squads exceeded expectations in last week's pre-championship coaches' poll, which had the women slated to take ninth and the men booked for 12th. The men bested that prediction by one position during the Saint Anselm College-hosted championship.
By taking second place with 103 points, the Purple and Gold women finished 27 points ahead of third-place Bentley University and trailed only nationally-ranked Stonehill College, which totaled 35 points and was 22nd in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) poll. Bentley was one of seven regionally-ranked squads Saint Michael's bested. The Purple Knights, who began competing in the NE-10 in 1987, had previously finished as high as third at the NE-10 meet on four occasions, most recently in 2011, after winning the Mideast Collegiate Conference (MCC) Championship in both 1985 and 1986. Neither of those MCC fields were larger than six schools.
Juniors Chloe Boutelle (Saratoga Springs, N.Y./Saratoga Springs), Colleen Gilliatt (Grantham, N.H./Lebanon) and Lindy Heffernan (Sutton Mills, N.H./Kearsarge Regional) each recorded all-conference finishes for the Purple Knights by placing among the top 21 during the 149-competitor 5K race, marking the first time three Saint Michael's runners garnered all-league honors at an NE-10 Championship. Boutelle joined Kerri D'Arrigo '89 as the lone three-time all-conference harriers in program history - D'Arrigo was all-league all four years - and became the initial Purple Knight to land all-conference finishes three times at an NE-10 Championship. Boutelle and Heffernan landed on the second team, and Gilliatt was a third-teamer. Gilliatt and Heffernan drew their first career all-league laurels.
Boutelle placed eighth in a time of 18:46, while each of the next four Saint Michael's scorers posted PRs. Heffernan took 12th place at 18:59, Gilliatt was 18th in 19:08, and junior Allie Gratton (Essex Junction, Vt./Essex) nabbed 25th in 19:20, coming within six seconds of the final all-conference runner. Senior Daniela Czark (New York, N.Y./The Elan School) notched a 45th-place showing thanks to a time of 20:02.
The Purple and Gold men placed 11th among 15 schools with 314 points in a meet won by Stonehill, which notched 57 points and is receiving national votes. Saint Michael's finished 51 points better than Le Moyne College and 66 ahead of 13th-place Saint Anselm College, which was slated to place above the Purple Knights in the pre-championship coaches' poll. Saint Michael's tied for its best team performance since 2008.
Junior Peter McKenna (Cohasset, Mass./Brooks School) led a historic showing for the Purple and Gold men, with his 48th-place performance the best at an NE-10 Championship by a Saint Michael's harrier since Thomas Lichtenberger '07 took 17th in 2006. McKenna clocked in at 27:12 during the 154-runner 8K, the same rounded time as the 46th- and 47th-place runners, and just 15 seconds short of 40th. Senior Dana Glubiak (Chagrin Falls, Ohio/Gilmour Academy) placed 68th in 27:49, and junior Alex Gilgore (Scotia, N.Y./Scotia-Glenville Senior) was one second back in 70th. Saint Michael's placed three among the top 70 at the conference championship for the first time since 2005, when Lichtenberger, Paul Wagner '06, Lionel Welch '06 and James Heelan '08 all turned the trick.
In his first NE-10 Championship, first-year Torin La Liberte (Madison, N.H./Kennett) took 106th with a time of 28:52, while junior Erik Hoiseth (Watertown, Mass./Watertown) trailed La Liberte by just one spot during a 28:58 showing in his first league meet since 2011.
The top seven runners from both squads hit the trail for the NCAA East Regional Championship on Nov. 10 at Franklin Park in Boston. The women begin at 1:30 p.m. before the men's gun goes off at 2:30 p.m.
Captains Elena Bilodeau '14 (left) and Daniela Czark '14 (courtesy of the NE-10)