Cross Country, Sports

Starting in stride

The Boston University cross country team captured individual first place honors in both the men’s and women’s races with standout performances by junior Eric Ashe and graduate student Andrea Walkonen in the Vermont Invitational on Sunday.

Walkonen’s performance carried the women’s team to victory, while the men finished third.’ Walkonen finished the 5,000-meter run with a time of 17 minutes, 50.68 seconds ‘- Ashe completed his 8,000-meter run with a time of 25:24.16.

‘We went to the course because it’s where the conference championships are going to be,’ BU coach Robyne Johnson said. ‘There are a lot of credible teams. We’re going to bide our time-but it was a good start.’

The women won thanks to great depth. Walkonen had help in the form of sophomore Katie Matthews and senior Sarah Mosser, who both finished in the top 10. Junior Kathleen Davies and freshman Marita Stressenger slipped into the top 20 to piece together a 49-point place total.

‘Although it’s early, it’s always nice to get the win,’ Johnson said.

Sophomores Craig MacPherson and Peter Gilmore joined Ashe in the top 10 for the men, who were hurt by their final two scorers. Sophomore Joe Greenspun and senior David Polgar couldn’t stay with the pack in finishing 22nd and 31st.

The University of New Hampshire won the men’s overall meet with 39 points. The University of Vermont took second place with 63 points. New Hampshire put just four runners in the top 10-one more than BU. Vermont had just one top-10 finisher.

But by eliminating stragglers, each team was able to come up with the most efficient overall score.

The women won because their back-end scorers stayed competitive, not hurting the efforts of the top three by putting up crooked numbers.

‘Sometimes the first race out, you aren’t sure of your fitness level and that can trip some people up,’ Johnson said. ‘It’s especially true in cross country where you can’t see the course from start to finish so you just have to feel it out.’

Walkonen, who was a 2008 All-American, used four years of experience to avoid this pitfall.

‘I know what type of competitor Andrea is,’ Johnson said.’ ‘She pressed hard from the start and never let up. She led from start to finish.’

To say Walkonen pressed hard is an understatement. She routed the entire field, beating second place finisher, University of Maine sophomore Corey Conner, by 35 seconds. Ashe faced a tougher path to the win, edging University of Vermont senior Doug Maisey by seven seconds.

‘Eric stepped up and did what Eric does,’ Johnson said. ‘He put in solid workouts all summer and is in great shape.’

The Terriers run in Boston next weekend in their host meet, the BU Invitational. The meet will be held at Franklin Park and both the men’s and women’s teams will be in action.

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