Morgan Golliver, Sports Editor
On Oct. 27, the Utica College men’s cross country team won its first-ever Empire 8 Conference Championship in the 12-year history of the program.
While the team is excited about their victory, they now have to focus on their first trip to the NCAA Atlantic Regional in Glasboro, New Jersey, this Saturday, Nov. 10.
Win or lose this Saturday, the team’s E8 victory will still be one to remember for senior Liam Rodgers.
“It’s tough to put it into words exactly what it means to me to win the title because it’s something that we as a team have wanted to do since my class first started running here,” Rodgers explained. “When we were freshmen, we all knew we had a lot of potential to be really good in a couple years, and we knew we were going to do something big.”
In the Empire 8 Conference Championship, Rodgers came in third place in the 8K with a time of 30:28.00, which earned him first-team All-Conference honors for the first time in his career.
Rodgers said that was a huge accomplishment after he made big improvements after suffering from a stress fracture injury as a freshman.
“I lost four months of not running and had many times where I wanted to quit, but I told myself there was a lot of potential if I stuck around,” Rodgers said. “So, I took time during my sophomore and junior year to learn how to race again, and then this year, I finally improved and was able to step up and help out the other guys.”
With his significant improvement, Rodgers is also one of the top-seven finishers on the team that will compete at the Atlantic Regional.
Rodgers said it was tough for the coaches to choose the top finishers because “a lot of guys on the team have stepped up.”
“Everyone on the team has been consistent, and that’s how we won the Empire 8, because so many good guys ran close times and that’s how we were able to win by 23 points,” Rodgers said.
Junior Mitchell Marlow is also one of the top-seven finishers competing at the Regional and said the preparation for the next big race is all about fine-tuning things and making sure the team is feeling fresh and ready to go.
In the Empire 8 Conference Championship, Marlow placed 10th overall with a time of 30:52.96 and is now a two-time All-Conference selection.
Marlow is looking forward to his final season after experiencing the joy of winning the title this year.
“I hope to enjoy myself as this will be my last ‘hoorah,’ and I also hope to get another All-Conference selection,” Marlow said.
After winning titles as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s cross country programs, Eric Parker first praised his fellow coaches for doing a “fantastic job” with the training and preparation they helped with throughout the season.
“We had to overcome a lot of adversity, and cold, wind, mud and rain conditions,” Parker said. “But our athletes showed their mental strength to overcome those really tough conditions to win those titles.”
Parker addressed how it was a big step up for his team by winning the championship.
“We’ve had a lot of firsts in the last four years, so we’re trying to knock them all off to overcome adversity, and we had a lot of people step up in a big way on the guys side at the championship,” Parker said. “It was really good to see all the work that they’ve put in this year pay off.”
As Parker hopes for more titles in the future, the this year’s cross country team has set a high bar for future student-athletes to achieve.
“Winning is an expectation moving forward, and our student-athletes are putting in the work out of season and in season to make sure that is achievable,” Parker said.