Terriers fight through illness, shine at NE championships

Despite battling sickness and a difficult course, the Boston University cross country team put up an impressive showing at the New England Championships in Westfield on Sunday, highlighted by a pair of standout performances from star juniors Monica Adler and Rich Peters.

Many members of the team were recovering from a cold, including senior Matt Paulson, one of the biggest difference makers on the men’s side. Paulson was too sick to compete. BU coach Bruce Lehane said the illnesses may have had an impact on his team’s performance.

“Running distance is hard when you have respiratory trouble,” Lehane said. “It’s kind of a limiting factor to begin with, and when that equipment is impaired, it’s a difficult situation.”

Additionally, the course conditions were challenging, Lehane said was worrisome.

“It was a difficult course in the sense that there were several spots that had very hard-to-manage terrain, a series of roots and a lot of loose boulders all over the place,” Lehane said. “I was really worried someone might get hurt out there … but all in all we got out reasonably healthy which on that type of course is always a concern.

“[They] struggled through it the best they could. Sometimes you just have to go forward with it.”

Adler took home the individual victory in the women’s five-kilometer race. Her time of 17:00.79 was nearly six seconds faster than second-place finisher senior Bridget Dahlberg of Boston College.

“That was great fun. It’s always extra exciting to see a win,” Lehane said of Adler’s performance. “It lifts the team’s spirits. We all share in her success.”

Lehane said he was impressed by Adler’s race. Not only was it the first individual victory of her collegiate career, but it also earned her America East Performer of the Week honors.

“This is all kind of new territory for her, she’s kind of broken into a new level of running,” Lehane said. “She’s had success on the track previously … but cross country’s a different animal. For her, this is kind of uncharted territory.

“She went out a little conservatively … the last time I saw her she was running in about seventh place. So I was kind of surprised as I went back to the finishing field to see her come out in the lead.”

Freshman Shelby Stableford continued her outstanding rookie season with a 24th-place finish and a time of 17:59.77.  Sunday’s performance her first sub-18 minute race of the season.

Junior Danielle Bowen (30th, 18:06.58), senior Nikki Long (58th, 18:29.95) and sophomore Ashli Tagoai (123rd, 19:11.15) rounded out the scoring for BU, which finished seventh out of 37 teams with a score of 236 points.

Boston College took home the team victory with a total of 45 points.

On the men’s side, Peters placed second in his return from a knee injury with a time of 24:21.04 in the eight-kilometer race. Peters was also named America East Performer of the Week. It was the second time this season he received the honor.

“He was a little tentative,” Lehane said about Peters. “But I think that’s because he’s kind of been out of action for a little while. It’s understandable.”

Senior Robert Gibson placed 23rd with a time of 24:59.59, followed by freshmen Alec Olson (33rd, 25:10.77) and Kevin Thomas (44th, 25:20.45). Senior Elliot Lehane (54th, 25:25.46) was the final contributor to the score for the Terriers. The men placed fourth out of 37 teams with a score of 156 points.

Dartmouth College took home the men’s team victory with a total of 83 points.

The men are showing strong promise for the remaining weeks of the season. They finished with an average time of 25:03.47 on Sunday, the best average of the season so far. However, Lehane believes his team will have to push even harder in the coming weeks to achieve its ultimate goal of reaching Nationals.

“We have an outside chance of qualifying for Nationals, but in order to do that, we have to have everyone at the top of their game,” Lehane said. “We haven’t met that point yet … it’s going to be a stretch and a reach, but that’s what we’re supposed to be doing.”

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