WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Sixth-year Eastern Connecticut State University women’s cross country head coach Kathy Manizza has been voted as Little East Conference Women’s Cross Country Coach-of-the-Year by her peers after leading the program to its first LEC championship last month.
Manizza, who also serves as men’s cross country coach and men’s and women’s track and field coach, becomes the first Eastern head cross country coach to be named LEC Coach-of-the-Year. She is the women’s cross country program’s fourth LEC major award-winner, following former Rookie-of-the-Year selections Karina Johnson in 2007, Ariel Smith in 2014 and Samantha McKosky in 2015.
At this year’s LEC Championships Oct. 28 on the Keene State College campus, the women’s program earned its first team title by unseating 17-time defending champion Keene State College. In a seven-team field, Eastern edged Plymouth State University by eight points. Led by senior co-captain Kassandrah Banks (Wethersfield) and junior Haley Knox (Bristol), Eastern placed all five of its scoring runners within the top 14 finishers in a field of 72. Banks was second and Knox ninth, with both earning All-LEC recognition for their Top Ten finish.
Although it graduated its top runner from a year ago, Eastern returned a strong nucleus of eight letterwinners this year, among them former LEC Rookie-of-the-Year picks McKosky and Smith.
The Warriors began the season with a solid third-place finish among 11 teams at the Trinity College Invitational and a week later took 16th place in a field of 40 teams at UMass Dartmouth.
Eastern closes out the season Saturday at the NCAA Division III New England Regionals at the Gorham (ME) Country Club.