The men’s and women’s cross country teams returned to school hoping to improve on last season’s performances after both teams finished in the top five in their respective regionals last November. Led by Head Coach John Curtin, both teams have begun practicing and competing in preparation for regionals and nationals later on this year.

“The season has gotten off to a good start,” Curtin said. “We are facing the normal preseason injuries and fatigue after a tough training camp in North Carolina.”

Both teams began their seasons at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park at the Watermelon Run, a meet that allows Emory and other local teams to start out the year with a non-stressful event that still brings a little competition early on in the season.

To prevent injury and keep things interesting, each runner on both teams was given a specific pace at which to run.

In light of the specific time paces that runners had to run at, both teams still performed very well. The women were able to have 17 of their runners placing in the top 20, including junior Marissa Gogniat, who finished first in the women’s race with a time of 19:12.

“The Watermelon Run was a great chance for our team to get in a competitive run before the season,” Gogniat said. “I can already tell that this team is very special and the team dynamic has never been better.”

The men also had an outstanding performance in the Watermelon Run, with 18 of their runners finishing in the top 20, including senior Eddie Mulder, who finished first in the men’s race with a time of 21:19.

“Most everyone on our team felt comfortable with the assigned paces by our coach and had good days,” Mulder said. “We have a large freshman class this year with a lot of potential.”

He continued, “Michael McBane ran well as we expect him to be a key contributor going forward in the season. The Watermelon Run was a good place to see where people are at with their fitness levels.”

Both teams have high expectations and goals for the upcoming season. The preseason NCAA Rankings ranked the men’s cross country team at the top of the Southeast region, while the Women’s Cross Country Team was ranked second, only behind Trinity University (Texas), a top national contender.

“Preseason rankings are just that, preseason,” Curtin said. “I think both of our guys and girls have a chance to make nationals and make some noise when we get there.”

Curtin also spoke highly of the incoming freshmen class.

“We have a ton of new athletes, especially on the men’s team, so those kids are still finding their way,” he said. “I think we will have a little better handle on what kind of teams we might have after the Sewanee meet next weekend.”

Gogniat is also excited about her team’s chances this year.

“I have very high expectations for us as a team in the upcoming season because the dedication to excellence is there,” Gogniat said. “We have so many great newcomers and veterans.”

Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams will have their next competition Saturday, Sept. 7, as they travel to the Sewanee Invitational (Tenn.) to compete.

– By Brian Chavkin

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