Emerson College’s men’s and women’s cross country teams were selected to finish dead last in preseason polls, and it didn’t surprise head coach John Furey.
“Preseason polls are mostly based on how you did last season, so I would say [the ranking] is probably fair,” said Furey.
Last season, both teams placed last at the New England Women’s and Men’s Conference Championship meet.
But preseason polls are nothing more than hypothetical rankings, as Emerson has proved so far. They have defied expectations by claiming a spot on the podium in their first two meets of the season.
Furey attributed his teams’ early successes to a focus on offseason training and new recruits.
“[I wanted us] to put in quality training throughout the summer and to be as fit as possible and mentally ready to train hard and race well,” said Furey, who is now in his 16th season coaching at Emerson.
Senior women’s captain Ali Dokus has been a key part of the Lions’ wins, placing first at the first two meets of the season and finishing sixth at the Gordon Invitational on Sept. 27.
“[Dokus] sets the tone,” Furey said. “Her finishing first overall in meets helps everyone’s spirit and energy.”
The teams also added eight freshmen runners in the offseason.
“One of our team goals is to be more competitive versus NEWMAC opponents,” said Furey. “This year’s [freshmen] additions are a step in that direction.”
Freshman Tim Gersten finished second at the Rivier Invitational on Sept. 20.
“I didn’t want to screw anything up for the team,” said Gersten, a visual and media arts major. “I wanted to go out and do my best and finish strong. The second race I was less nervous. I knew how to pace myself.”
“Those first two meets helped start the season in a positive way,” said Furey.
At their third meet of the season, the Gordon Invitational on Sept. 27, the women’s and men’s teams placed sixth and eighth, respectively.
Both teams resume their seasons on Oct. 11 at the Runnin’ Monks Invitational in Standish, Maine.