Warriors Cross Country Ready for Saturday’s NCAA Atlantic Regional at Slippery Rock

Junior Rose Mascoli will look for her second straight trip to the NCAA Championships and the Warriors’ men’s and women’s teams should both be among the top contenders for top-three finishes and a flight to Spokane, Washington when the Atlantic Regional meet is held on Saturday at Slippery Rock.

Mascoli was fourth at last year’s meet to claim one of the individual spots and went on to become ESU’s fifth All-American in women’s cross country at the NCAA Championships.

This season, she will once again aim for an individual trip, but the Warriors also have team goals with a strong nucleus of runners on both sides. The top five individuals, regardless of their team finish, will earn a spot in the NCAA Championship field.

Mascoli and classmate Corinne Fitzgerald were fifth and sixth at the PSAC Championships on Oct. 22, and will be back on a course where they finished first and second at the Slippery Rock Invitational on Oct. 8.

The team returns five of its top six finishers from last year’s regional, with sophomores Kim Wernerspach and Kim Lowry and junior Bridget McCarron also having regional experience.  ESU was sixth last season after finishing 12th in 2009, highlighted by big moves by Mascoli (42nd to 4th) and Fitzgerald (40th to 23rd) from their freshmen to sophomore years.

Wernerspach was 19th at the PSAC Championships and the Warriors will have to get gritty efforts from their next two runners to improve on their seventh-place finish from two weeks ago. Sophomore Kelsy Rushing and freshman Chelsea Wootten will round out ESU’s seven runners who cover the 6K course.

The men’s team also has high hopes after placing fourth at the PSAC Championships and landing its top five runners in the top 23. The Warriors’ spread was just 23 seconds from one through five in juniors Frank Fezza (12th – 25:18.4) and Mike Pereira (13th), senior Greg Laraia (19th), junior Amr Aldeen (22nd) and freshman Chris Schneider (23rd – 25:41.1). Juniors Jim Romano and Jared Wilson have also been scorers this season.

The Warriors were just 11 points behind second-place Shippensburg and five points behind Lock Haven, and only three points ahead of Slippery Rock, at the PSAC Championships. All four schools should contend for the top spots again behind favored Edinboro with the top three teams advancing.

Laraia was ESU’s top finisher last season (32nd) and second finisher (22nd) in 2009, when the Warriors were fourth with their lowest point total since 1995. Fezza was 15th in that meet and has made a strong return after missing most of last season due to injury. Pereira and Aldeen also scored for the Warriors as freshmen and again last season, and five of the top six runners from last year’s regional return.

ESU topped Slippery Rock, 52-62, for the team title at the invitational at Slippery Rock on an 8K course a month ago. The Warriors had five runners in the top nine in Laraia (2nd), Schneider (4th), Aldeen (5th), Fezza (8th) and Romano (9th). The regional will be run over 10K.

ESU has sent three men’s teams to the NCAA Championships – 1985, 1987 and 1989 – but is looking for its first representative in more than two decades. The women have gone once, in 1999, and Mascoli can become the fourth ESU woman to make consecutive trips to the NCAA’s.