Warriors Cross Country Teams Set for PSAC Championships at Lock Haven

Sophomore Kim Wernerspach and junior Mike Pereira

Junior Rose Mascoli and the East Stroudsburg University cross country teams continue their impressive seasons this weekend as the Warriors compete in the 2011 PSAC Cross Country Championships on Saturday at Lock Haven.

Mascoli, a returning All-American who is unbeaten in four meets this fall, should contend for a top-five finish and will look to challenge defending national champion Neely Spence of Shippensburg in the women’s 6K race, which kicks off the day at 10:45 a.m.

The Warriors’ women’s team has improved from 12th in 2009 to sixth last season, and will aim for another jump into the top three led by Mascoli and classmate Corinne Fitzgerald. Mascoli was 12th and Fitzgerald was 20th last year and will be counted on to pick up several spots each for the Warriors to contend in the team race.

Depth has been the motto for the men’s squad, which has had a spread of less than a minute from its first through fifth runners in all four meets. ESU has won three of its four meets and has established itself as an annual contender in the PSAC, placing fourth in 2009, fifth last season and in the top six in each of the last five years.

Senior Greg Laraia is a returning All-PSAC finisher, placing 17th last year, and has scored in all three conference meets as the Warriors’ most veteran runner. Juniors Mike Pereira and Amr Aldeen were 25th and 27th a year ago and both teams return four of their top five from 2010.

Mascoli’s 2011 season includes individual titles at Fordham, Monmouth, Salisbury and Slippery Rock and team titles in the last two meets. After finishing 12th in the PSAC last year, she ran fourth in the NCAA Atlantic Regional to earn a trip to the NCAA Championships, where she claimed All-America honors with a 24th-place finish.

Fitzgerald has been a strong second for the Warriors, going fourth overall at Fordham, sixth at Monmouth, fourth at Salisbury and second at Slippery Rock. She was 15 seconds behind Mascoli in the last meet at Slippery Rock on the same course where the regional will be held on November 5.

Sophomore Kim Wernerspach, the Warriors’ fourth finisher in 41st place last year, will look to replicate the jump made by Mascoli and Fitzgerald from their freshman to sophomore seasons. Wernerspach has been ESU’s third runner in all four meets this season, including a high of sixth at Salisbury. Mascoli went from 34th to 12th and Fitzgerald improved from 56th to 20th last year.

Junior Bridget McCarron, a scorer at the last two PSAC championships, and sophomore Kim Lowry have been regulars in the No. 4 and No. 5 spots, and sophomore Kelsy Rushing ran fifth for ESU at Fordham in the season opener. The key for the Warriors – aside from Mascoli and Fitzgerald running at the front of the pack – will be the placement of their third, fourth and fifth runners compared to the rest of the top teams in the PSAC.

On the men’s side, Laraia has paced the Warriors in their last three meets, running fifth at Monmouth and Salisbury and second at Slippery Rock. Aldeen was the top finisher at Fordham, placing sixth, and Pereira, junior Jim Romano and freshman Chris Schneider have all run in the top team’s top three. Pereira has been 31st and 25th at his first two PSAC meets and Romano scored in the Warriors’ fifth position last season.

The return of junior Frank Fezza, who led the Warriors with an All-PSAC finish (12th) as a freshman in 2009, could also be a key acquisition. Fezza missed most of last season due to injury, but has pushed into team’s No. 4 spot the last two weeks. Jared Wilson, another junior, scored for the Warriors in their victory at Monmouth. The final three spots on the 10-man roster will be filled by junior Mike Saparito, an 800m school record holder in track and field, and freshmen Chris Ott and Steve Ruch.