Loyola Cross Country Sweeps Atlantic 10 Conference, Prepares for Regionals

The Loyola men’s and women’s cross country teams breezed through their Atlantic 10 (A-10) competition.

The Loyola men’s and women’s cross country teams breezed through their Atlantic 10 (A-10) competition to sweep both conference team titles Oct. 29 as they prepare for NCAA Regionals.

The men’s team placed first with 37 points, despite being tabbed fourth in the A-10 preseason poll. They finished 11 points ahead of the preseason favorite La Salle University who ended with 48 points. Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Gavin Kennedy discussed the team’s maturity in exceeding its preseason rank. 

“I didn’t have to give them any message,” Kennedy said. “They understood that we were underrated coming in, and that was okay by us. They’re smart enough, old enough, mature enough, to know that we were most likely better than what we were ranked.”

The women’s team placed at the top of the A-10 preseason poll and defended its preseason poll ranking all season, leading the pack with 54 points, 20 ahead of second place La Salle. 

Kennedy said the women’s team was under a lot of pressure after they ranked atop the A-10 preseason poll and won in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. He said he took pressure off his athletes by reminding them the A-10 is a different conference with different teams.

Both teams had three runners place in the top 10 with first and second on the men’s side — graduate students Chris Devaney and Ryan Martins. Aside from Devaney and Martins, graduate student Blake Buysse was the third runner in the top ten placing ninth with an 8k time of 24:19.5.

Buysse, a veteran leader of the team having run with Loyola since his first-year season, said he uses the lessons he has learned to mold and shape younger runners. 

“I think it’s a great learning experience for the youngest guys to come in on day one,” Buysse said. “Just see that it can be done and we can have success at this program, which is something I didn’t have along the way. It’s great to leave the program better than I found it.

Loyola had nine all-conference runners combined on both teams, with first-year Lily Mataway receiving A-10 All-Conference honors and A-10 Most Outstanding Female Rookie Performer. Mataway finished sixth overall in the meet, running 17:06.3 in her first NCAA 5k event. Another young runner, sophomore Ali Gillooly, notched her personal best with a time of 18:02.1, finishing 22nd overall.

As one of the team’s newcomers, Gillooly transferred to Loyola from Iona University before the season. She said Loyola’s culture has embraced new runners like herself.

“Even from the first day I got here, everyone was so welcoming and they have made it feel like home for me right from the start,” said Gillooly. “Last year, I went through the transfer process, wasn’t a great fit. Coming here, it was just amazing. It reminded me how much I love running.”

The men had a young placer as well. Jason Clayton, another first-year, took home 11th with his time of 24:27.9. Clayton, along with the other top five members on the men’s side, were named all-conference runners. 

Kennedy was also named A-10 Coach of the Year but looked past the accolades, focusing on the success of his runners.

“Obviously rewarding and it’s indicative of the hard work that our athletes have put in,” Kennedy said. “Our season doesn’t end at the conference. Our season really starts at the conference meet.”

Loyola hopes to take its success at the conference level to the regional level in Columbia, Missouri on Friday, Nov. 10 in the NCAA Midwest Regional.

This story was written by Frank Zawrazky

Featured image courtesy of Steve Woltmann | Loyola Athletics

The Phoenix Staff

The Phoenix Staff