River Hawks aim for more success – Lowell Sun

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LOWELL — It’s been said there’s no place like home.

And for the UMass Lowell women’s cross country team, their success year after year centers around a core of athletes from Lowell and the surrounding Merrimack Valley.

During the abbreviated cross country season this spring, the River Hawks captured their first America East Conference Championship, placing three local finishers in its top 10, with Lowell’s Kaley Richards taking second, followed by Tewksbury’s Emily Sessa (3rd) and Haverhill’s Jenna Solimine (10th).

Those three runners, as well as an All-Conference selection in Izzy Giesing, graduate student Caroline O’Shea and a handful of other experienced runners have the RIver Hawks expecting big things this fall.

“We have high expectations every year. It’s been great because we have been pretty successful year in and year out, but there’s two or three other teams on any given day who could win the conference championship as well,” said head coach Gary Gardner. “The kids understand that no one is going to hand them anything and if you’re not at your best, same with the men’s side, there’s two or three teams who could beat us on any given day. We just have to make sure that we are on during those right days so we can win the championship.”

Richards, Sessa, Solimine and O’Shea are all graduate students. Giesing is a senior, and Mary Yount — the team’s fifth-place finisher at the conference championship meet —is a sophomore. Freshman Sarah Ross rounds out the team’s top seven runners, though Richards will be slowed a bit early on and may not race until October.

“Kaley is nursing a little knee problem, but it’s nothing major,” said Gardner. “Her (outdoor track) season went so long so we are pushing her back a bit and just giving her some extra time.”

That will allow others to push forward, especially O’Shea.

“Getting Caroline is a huge addition to the team,” said Gardner. “Having someone who was All-Conference last year come in and add to your team as your fifth kid is pretty huge.”

Right behind those front seven are four other runners, all from the Merrimack Valley: senior Olivia Sheffield and sophomore Asaliah Mirambeaux, both of Lowell, and senior Sarah Burns and sophomore Hanna Doherty, both of Billerica.

“There’s a group of kids right there who will all be working toward that goal of getting to the 8-9-10 spots since we can run 10 kids at the conference meets,” said Gardner.  “We have probably seven or eight kids who are going to try to fill in those last three spots and that just makes us that much deeper than we were last year.

“Anytime you can have competition, it helps and it makes everybody better.”

Burns has had a couple of setbacks, including sitting out the winter cross-country season with mononucleosis, but is now healthy and can’t wait for the team’s season opener on Saturday, to be held at the University of Vermont.

“We’re all super excited because we’re finally going to have a normal season, which we haven’t had in a long time,” she said. “We did have a winter cross country season and are coming off a first-place finish back in March, so we’re just all rolling with that. We are basically returning that whole team and we have added some really talented transfers and freshmen so we’re just all super excited to be back, getting started and doing what we love.”



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