Lions XC renews quest for elusive conference title

staff member, took the win in the women’s 5K race, turning in a time of 20:14, shaving almost two minutes off her best time from last season.

This year’s female runners face stiff competition. St. Joseph’s College of Maine has won the GNAC the last two years, and is looking strong yet again in 2009.

Furey said he thinks the team has largely closed the gap and will be able to make a legitimate run at the championship.

Unfortunately, the men have even more to worry about. Furey pegged Johnson Wales University as the clear GNAC favorite this year.

Hancock has similar concerns.

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“Johnson Wales and Norwich, they were very good last year, we don’t know exactly what they have coming back,” the junior broadcast journalism major said.

There are some early standouts for the Emerson team. Kyle Oppenheimer, a freshman at Berklee College of Music, runs on the Emerson team as part of the Pro-Arts Consortium, and finished second in the five-mile run on Saturday, clocking in at just over 28 minutes. The time earned him GNAC Rookie of the Week honors.

“We have a great incoming freshman class,” Hancock said. “John Cico and Oppenheimer, from Berklee [College of Music] those two along with [sophomore] Brandon Fox, we’re going to have this three headed monster up front.”

The new talent may not be enough to finally break the spell of close seconds for the men. In their six years as a team, they have managed to obtain third and fourth place finishes in the GNAC in four of their six seasons. This year’s competition will not make the feat any easier.

It is hard to say what exactly the field will look like so early in the season. A lot of teams and runners don’t start the year in the form that many Emerson runners are in and can improve hugely, shaving minutes off of their time by October and making the field hard to assess, Furey said.

“The first real meet of significance is Oct. 3 [at] Gordon College,” Furey said. “All the teams in the GNAC will be there.”

He added that the race will be the first one to really set the pace for the rest of the season.

Furey said his goals for now are to make the team as fast as they can be without causing any injuries.

At present, every runner is healthy, but Furey said he worries about the depth of the Emerson teams, which only have about 10 runners each.

The team will need all their weapons this season to make a serious run at the title.