CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The men's and women's cross country teams will travel to Stanley Park in Westfield, Mass. to vie for a title at the annual New England Collegiate Conference Championships. Both teams are familiar to landing atop the podium as the women's team has seven championships in the program's history while the men's side has captured five titles dating back to the 2008 season.
The women's team returns seven runners from a team that finished second at the 2015 NECC Championships, including sophomore Nicole Footer (Lewiston, Maine) who ran her way to the NECC All-Conference Second Team with a tenth place finish after crossing at 21:26. Joining the seven veterans is an influx of talent who has been strong performers all season. Senior Amy Bouchard (Goffstown, N.H.) has been the first Lesley finisher in each of the last four races while junior Jordan Penney (Eliot, Maine) shaved nearly two-minutes off her personal-record two weeks ago at the Saints Invitational.
"From the first day of pre-season these women have been on a mission," said head coach Aaron Nelson. "I have never seen a group of student athletes form a tighter bound around a singular goal than they have this year. Coach Miller and I extremely proud of all of their hard work, and I know how excited they are to show everyone on Saturday how far that hard work has taken them. These ladies have done everything I have asked of them and more, and in the process of becoming better teammates and athletes, they became a family. And you know what? This family likes to do a lot of things together, but their absolute favorite thing to do is to compete. There's nothing more to say except this: They are ready."
The men's side will be led by senior Tyler Burns (Newton, Pa.) and sophomore Mike Fleming (Southwick, Mass.). Burns cruised to a personal-best time of 32:00 the last time out at Stanley Park at the James Early Invitational on October 8th. Fleming is coming off a new personal-best time of his own on October 14th. Lesley ran to a fifth place finish at the NECC Championships last season.
The Lynx are no strangers to Stanley Park as it has been home to the NECC title race for the past three years while they also raced at the annual James Early Invitational hosted by Westfield State University on October 8th.
"This group of men have been through a lot of change and adversity this year, but they have never faltered when it came to their work ethic," said Nelson. "Our entire men's team was committed to their personal and team goals, and although we had a relatively young team, I have never seen student athletes mature so quickly. Many of them stepped into the 'unknown' this year all because I asked them to follow me and to try something new for me—they have earned the trust I gave them on Day-1 ten-times over. Their steady and immense improvement each and every week is a testament to that work ethic and to the leadership of our seniors, and they have much to be proud of as they go into our NECC championships this weekend"