STORRS, Conn. -
The 2017 UConn men’s cross country team has more talent on its roster than in the past 15 years, according to veteran head coach Greg Roy.
“We have a deep and talented upper class and there are a number of young performers who should be able to step up and contribute this year,” said Roy.
Senior Mike O’Donnell (Methuen, Mass.) leads the way for UConn and is a two-time All-American Athletic Conference pick. O’Donnell has finished sixth at each of the past two American events and was seventh at the New England Championship last year. O’Donnell was also second in the mile at last year’s American indoor track and field championship.
Redshirt junior Michael McGonnigle (New Fairfield, Conn.) earned all-conference honors as a freshman in cross country.
“Mike has had some struggles the past two years physically, but has worked them out and should return to good form this fall,” said Roy.
Redshirt junior Patrick Begley (Suffield, Conn.) did not compete in cross country last year, but had an excellent indoor season as he was sixth at the American indoor championship in the 5,000 meters in 14:39.92 and was 15th in the 3,000.
Redshirt freshman Eric Van der els (Norwalk, Conn.) is entering his first cross country season after having an incredible summer where he won the 1,500 meters at the Pan American Junior Championships in Peru in a meet record time of 3:43.16. Van der els was also second in the AAC outdoor championship in the 1,500.
“Eric is a different runner than he was on June 1 at the end of his freshman year,” said Roy. “Eric was just a step away from being a high school All-American in cross country and should be very good for us.”
Juniors Kyle Barber (Fayetteville, N.Y.) and Kyle Brackman (Berkley Heights, N.J.) are both accomplished and experienced. Barber earned all-conference in the steeplechase last spring and Brackman is a three-time scorer at conference meets.
“As far as the freshman go, as always, it remains to be seen who emerges and is ready to compete at this level,” said Roy.
Sean Parker (Bridgewater, Conn.) and Will Brisman (Fairfield, Conn.) are among the top newcomers on the team and finished third and fourth respectively at last year’s Connecticut high school championship.
The Huskies open the season on Saturday when they travel to the Minuteman Invitational in Amherst, Mass., and then go to the Paul Short Run in Bethlehem, Pa., on September 29. UConn runners will take part in both the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational in Madison, Wisc., and the Rothenberg Run in Warwick, R.I., on October 13.
The American Athletic Conference Championship takes place on October 28 at Belmont Plateau in Philadelphia.
“Tulsa is a national-level program and is probably the team to beat in the conference, but we are shooting for the title,” said Roy. “I think we can be successful at this year’s meet if we are more confident and more relaxed than we were last year.”
The NCAA Northeast Regional takes place on November 10 in Buffalo, N.Y. with the NCAA Championship on November 18 in Louisville.