The Vassar College Men and Women’s Cross Country teams have started out their years strong. The women placed second out of nine teams in the Ron Stonitsch Invitational last weekend, while the men placed second out of eleven. A top performer for the Brewer men was freshman Alfredo Mazzuca from New Paltz, NY. Mazzuca ran the 6k course in 19:42. He finished as the runner-up overall and came in first for the Brewers — his time of 19:42 was the best 6k time a Brewer has had in over 10 years. Mazzuca narrowly missed the win, finishing just five seconds behind the first-place finisher. The Liberty League recognized Mazzuca for his efforts by naming him the Liberty League Men’s Cross Country Rookie of the Week.
The women’s second place team’s performance was also bolstered by a strong freshman presence. Freshman Kate Snider from was one of four Vassar women to finish the race in under 20 minutes. She became the first freshman to cross the finish line first for Vassar in a race in over five years. She posted the fastest Brewer time at the Invitational since Laura Coogan in 2006, and the Liberty League also recognized Snider’s strong performance by naming her the Liberty League Women’s Cross Country Rookie of the Week along with Mazzuca.
On Saturday, September 14, the teams traveled to Mawah, NJ to take part in the Ramapo College Roadrunner Invitational. The men’s team placed fourth with just three points separating them from second place; the team finished with 71 points, just three behind New York University and The College of New Jersey, who both tied for second. Rowan University took first place with 44 points. For the fifth time in his career at Vassar, sophomore Jonah Williams from Saratoga Springs, NY was the top finisher for the Brewers; Williams placed fourth overall with a time of 27:01 for the 8k run. Mazzuca had another strong race finishing eighth overall with a time of 27:20.
Other finishers for the Brewers included junior Eliot Gerson from Kensington, MD who placed ninth, just after Mazzuca, with a time of 27:20 as well. Juniors Colin Hepburn and Brian Deer placed 24th and 26th respectively. Sophomore Andres Orr finished 32nd overall and junior Captain Sean Majer placed 36th. Overall, the team raced nine other institutions with 129 finishers during the afternoon.
In an emailed statement, Deer wrote about his performance, “I think I did pretty well for my first 8k, I felt strong for a lot of it and consciously made decisions to get moving more than I feel I usually do.” And with regard to the team, he added, “The team felt like we had a pretty good performance, although I know we were bummed about close losses to a few teams that we know we need to keep an eye on. Once we get our packs tight and feel 8k’s out again, I think we will be ready to rock. Our freshman are great this year. Only two of them raced this weekend, Fredo and Logan, and it was their first 8k I believe, but I think that they were pretty happy with how it went. I heard Fredo had a sweet kick to catch up at the end.”
The women’s team also competed at the Invitational. Senior captain Aubree Piepmeier from Franklin, MA returned for her first race since the NCAA championships last fall. Piepmeier helped lead her team to a first place finish last Saturday, as she finished third overall with a time of 24:08 on the 6k course. Snider — who also had another strong run that finished her fifth overall with a 24:10 — and Piepmeier helped edge out The College of New Jersey by one point. Sophomore Jonah Williams expressed his confidence about the weekend: “Overall I think the team did very well this weekend. Everybody was assertive and stayed focused during the race which was good,” he said. “We also were competitive with some strong teams which was great to see. There’s still a lot of room for improvement but we’re definitely headed in the right direction.”
Other strong performances came from Snider’s classmates. Fellow freshmen Lucy Balcezak from New Haven, CT placed 11th and Jemma Howlett from Bloomfield Hills, MI placed 12th. Junior Cassidy Carpenter placed 16th out of 194 runners to round out the team score for Vassar. Also finishing for the Brewers was sophomore Ava Farrell who placed 17th and junior Nicole Woodworth placed 23rd.
Both teams travel to Troy, NY on September 20th to compete in the RPI Invitational.