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Welcome Back: Men's and women's XC hoping to make strides this fall - The Pitt News

The Pitt News

Welcome Back: Men’s and women’s XC hoping to make strides this fall

By Megan Boyle / For The Pitt News

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A year can make quite the difference for a struggling team. 

In 2012, members of a young Pitt women’s cross country team found themselves at the end of their season finishing in sixth place at the East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships while their male counterparts did not even qualify for the male equivalent put on by the Intercollegiate Association of Amateur Athletes of America (IC4A).

One year later, in 2013, with a new allegiance to the ACC and a more experienced squad, the women’s team finished first and the men third in their closing meets.

Now, with a new season approaching, both teams hope to continue their successes.

The women’s team, consisting of nearly 35 members — not including the incoming freshmen class — hopes to use its large roster to its advantage.

“It’s more of a benefit than anything,” said Hillary Boxheimer, a senior on the team. “It gives us more competition for each other.”

The 2013 squad didn’t know what to expect in its first year in the ACC and the members consisted of all underclassmen, save a handful of juniors.

“We’re definitely going to have some depth,” assistant coach Adam Bray said. “Having a large number [on the roster] is going to play in our favor.”

With this depth comes key returning runners.

Boxheimer and senior Morgan Perry will be two of the key runners returning to compete in the upcoming season.

“These are two young ladies that are very important to our program,” Bray said. “[Perry] is more of a vocal leader whereas [Boxheimer] leads more of by example.”

They may be leaders, but both women also have the times to prove their dominance over the competition.

At the ECAC Championships last year, Boxheimer crossed the finish line first for the Panthers with a time of 18:20.8, ultimately placing third out of 162 competitors. In the same meet, Perry placed 16th overall with a time of 18:51.0.

“I think it has given us experience to see what’s really out there,” Boxheimer said about last season. “We have new freshmen and younger sophomores and we can push them to come up to our level so we can do well.”

The men’s squad features a smaller roster, with only 11 men. The team is diverse in the ages of its talent — key runners are senior Cullen Davis, junior Michael Runco and incoming freshman Billy Caldwell.

Davis, a transfer from Temple University (and previously coached by Bray at the same institution), had no tough adjustments in the move and said he transitioned smoothly between universities.

“There was a really negative vibe that I was getting from the [Temple] team and there were rumors about the men’s program being cut,” Davis said. “I feel a lot more comfortable here at Pitt. The vibe at Pitt is a lot better because everyone is trying to get better.”

Davis debuted during the Duquesne Duals eight-kilometer race, running 26:25.9  to finish eighth overall. He ended his season running 24:48.8 at Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., dropping his time by nearly two minutes.

Runco nipped at Davis’s heels all season, posting similar times throughout the year.

As both teams prepare for the fall season, neither size nor age will factor into their focuses. Both Bray and Boxheimer said the squads aim to improve their conference standing at the end of the season and placement at Mid-Atlantic regional championships.

Out of the 15 schools in the ACC last season, the men’s team finished 12th while the women placed 13th. At regionals, the men placed 16th out of 26 schools and the women placed 14th out of 29.

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Welcome Back: Men’s and women’s XC hoping to make strides this fall