By Sean Williams - SPORTS EDITOR
Hofstra cross country has had a resurgence this year, as freshmen on both the men’s and women’s teams, along with coach Vince Giambanco, have made the Pride a new force to be reckoned with.
The Pride women placed 5th and the men 2nd in fields of 16 this weekend at the LIU Post Invitational, though one team found success in experience and the other in its newcomers.
Eva Holtermann, a senior, led the women’s team in the 5K race and finished 14th overall, smashing her previous personal record by an unbelievable 58 seconds.
“Eva ran phenomenal today, she ran a 19:30, which for her is a huge PR. Probably the best I’ve seen her run,” said Giambanco. “She showed a lot of confidence today, showed that she’s ready to make the next step and climb up higher in the conference and regional rankings.”
Holtermann was followed by junior Becky Celorio, who remarkably ran in training shoes and finished 21st with a time of 19:47. Celorio can usually be expected to shave 45 seconds off that time in a more important race, and if Holtermann can keep up her progress, the duo will form a strong start for the Pride’s success.
Emily McLean and Lisa Eberwein placed 30th and 34th, respectively, providing the depth the Pride need to compete at higher levels. Freshman Patty Romano finished 73rd.
On the men’s side, freshmen were the talk of the day, as Daniel Barlev finished 7th with a 25:35 in the 8K race. Rodney Chirchir, also a freshman, finished 9th.
“Our plan today was to run as a pack early, we had a pack of four and our fourth guy was just a little bit behind them,” Giambanco said. “They went through two miles together and then started stringing out a little bit. Rodney and Dan, early in the third mile, started making a move and they were just passing, passing, passing. Those two really led from the front.”
Barlev’s time was the third best in Hofstra history running a competitive 8K. The New Jersey native has been a revelation for the Pride men after the graduation of the last Hofstra superstar, Daniel Rono.
Barlev had stepped up in the race the week before, finishing first and leading the Pride to the overall title at the Hofstra/St. John’s Invitational.
“He’s a really tough runner and he doesn’t like to lose, he doesn’t like people to pass him in practice, and he went out there and competed hard,” said the new head coach. “At points in the race he was pushing Rodney, at other points, Rodney was pushing him, and those two ran incredibly fast.”
Just as encouraging was Chirchir’s performance, as the Kenyan is still adjusting to being in a new country. After the newcomer finished 14th in the competition the week before, his improvement to a mere 10 seconds behind Barlev indicates his steady improvement.
“He’s kind of just getting his feet on the ground,” Giambanco said. “Every day I’ve just been seeing little improvements from him… I think you’re going to see him continue to climb up higher and higher in these races.”
The Pride teams will face a definite challenge when they run in the Brother Doyle/Iona Meet of Champions next week. The race will be held in the Bronx and will be attended by a number of strong cross country programs. Giambanco, however, was optimistic.
“The main thing we’re looking for is that these guys really go out and compete and beat as many people as they can. It’s going to be a big awakening, and Van Cortland Park is one of the hardest courses, so we’ll really know what we’re made of next week.”