By Dominic Chamberlain
Early in the morning on Saturday, Oct. 29 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Disney, the Griffs ran two magical races.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship race started while dew still covered the grass at the ESPN complex. As the sun was still breaking the trees on the horizon, the Griffs’ men’s team was warming up for their 8a.m. race.
The Griffs came into the race after two weeks of preparation following the Canisius Alumni Classic. At that race, the Griffs’ men’s team took first while the women’s team finished in second place overall. It was a good launching point into the MAAC championship for the Griffs.
“I think we were prepared very well,” said Head Coach Nate Huckle. “Physically they have been racing well, and I think mentally the focus that we took leading into the MAAC Championships kept them on track. They didn’t seem to stray from the task at hand and they were really ready to race.”
A few injuries plagued the Griffs heading into the MAAC Championships. The two weeks of preparation heading into the Championships were focused on those athletes getting better and maintaining their physical fitness.
The Griffs men’s team ran their way to second place finish after what was a very interesting race.
The men’s race was dominated by the Iona Gales. The Gales took the top eight spots, while the top seven Gales all finished within one second of each other. The first non-Gale to finish the race was Quinnipiac Bobcat Brendan Copley, who finished in ninth, a whole 35 seconds behind the pack of Gales runners. The Gales finished with a team score of 15, the lowest possible team score.
The top-finishing Griff was Galen Snyder with a time of 25:29.11, which was good enough for a sixteenth-place finish.
“I think that the race really opened up around the first mile,” said Snyder. “Xavier (Sauvageau) and Brennan (Root) really led the way nicely for us, and we had Coach Huckle and Chad (Maloy) on the course kind of screaming about where to get and we were able to move through the field nicely with their support.”
The most interesting part of this race was perhaps how the Griffs got second. The Gales took first place, which surprised nobody, but the Griffs took second place without a single Griff runner earning the All-Conference distinction, which is given out to the top 15 runners. It’s the same exact thing that the Marist Red Foxes did to the Griffs last year at the MAAC Championship.
The Griffs seemed to make every move count late in the race with a multitude of passes coming in the final stretch. The Griffs simply seemed to have more in the tank for the final kick and it ultimately got them second place with a team score of 102, while the Red Foxes took third with a score of 104.
“It was an awesome team effort,” said Snyder. “Losing four of our top five guys last year and being able to perform better than we did last year means that we’ve been doing what we need to do and working really hard. We are all invested and want to come together as a team and I think that’s how we got it done.”
Coach Huckle set the goal for the men’s team as a second place. It’s a goal the team achieved in what was a thrilling race.
After the races on Saturday at the annual MAAC postseason banquet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it was announced that Coach Huckle was named MAAC Men’s Coach of the Year.
“[Coach Huckle] prepares us mentally and physically,” said Snyder. “He holds us responsible for the process and he expects us to buy in and be totally dedicated to what we do every day, and it’s not just about racing, it’s about taking care of the little things and our guys are buying into that.”
The real fireworks though came in the women’s race. The 5k women’s race took off a few minutes following the men’s event. Going into the event, the Gales were once again favored but it was expected to be a bit closer than the men’s race.
Early on in the race, it looked like the Gales and the Bobcats were taking the race as the top two runners were Gales, with Bobcats in third and fourth place. Then the second announcement came over the loudspeakers, saying first place was an Iona runner, second place was a Bobcat runner, and in third was now Siobhan Quinn from the Griffs.
Quinn had a very consistent season leading up to the MAAC Championship. Quinn found herself near or at the front of races all season, and coming to the end of this race, she was there once again.
Quinn, at some point on the back of the course, made the pass to move into second place, trailing Teghan Henderson of Iona. As Quinn made the final turn, into the final stretch of the race, she was visibly making a charge at first place. Henderson was worn out and Quinn still had something left in the tank as with about 75 meters left, Quinn made the pass for first place and won the MAAC Championship race.
“Siobhan is an exceptional talent,” said Coach Huckle. “She is fantastic. As a sophomore in high school, she qualified for the National High School Championships out in Oregon, and she had a couple of years of injuries, and now she’s getting back to the point where she’s racing very well and her confidence is coming back. As talented as she is, when she’s on, it’s scary to race against her.”
Quinn ran her race, plain and simple. It came down to conditioning, and when the chips were down, Quinn had enough to win while Henderson fell from exhaustion and finished fourth after she was leading the race coming into the final stretch.
“Going into the race, I was obviously a little nervous,” said Quinn. “I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do, but I had a feeling I would improve on how I did last year, simply because last year at MAACs I didn’t really race that smart.”
Quinn never fell back too far and she obviously kept enough in the reserves to pull in front. It truly was an impressive showing from the sophomore.
“I wanted to go out and start the race around tenth, fifteenth place,” said Quinn, “just to keep my energy reserves pretty good for later in the race. I was just kind of playing on how the other girls were racing and just following their cues. I think I just raced really smart, and by the end, the girl in first place looked pretty tired.”
“She was leading the race for a while,” Quinn continued. “And she was running alone for a while which can be really tiring. I think she did wear herself out and I think it was more smooth for me to stay back and catch her at the end.”
The women’s team as a whole finished in fourth, with a team score of 122 behind Quinn’s race winning time of 21:19.30. This also meet Coach Huckle’s goal of improving on the women’s team finish of sixth place last year.
It’s safe to say that, although the Griffs did not win a team MAAC Championship, the Championships as a whole were a success. Quinn won the race, the women’s team improved from a sixth place finish last season, and the men’s team took an improbable route to second place. Believe in what you want, but maybe there was a bit of that famed Disney magic with the Griffs at the MAAC Championships.