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Cross Country: Veteran Women, Young Men are Solid at Little East Championships

Cross Country: Veteran Women, Young Men are Solid at Little East Championships

(Note: Times were unavailable)

Photos from women's race, CLICK HERE

Photos from men's race CLICK HERE

SMITHFIELD, R.I. --  The Eastern Connecticut State University women's team was unable to duplicate its feat of a year ago, when it put to rest Keene State College's 17-year streak of winning the Little East Conference championship. But it didn't fall too far short.

With Kassandrah Banks taking second last year and Haley Knox (Bristol) ninth, the Warriors posted an eight-point win over the Owls to claim their first championship.

Saturday, Keene was able to return the favor with an eight-point victory on a muddy 5000 meter course on the Bryant University campus over the runner-up Warriors, who recorded their second-highest finish since the championship expanded to seven teams in 2013.

The Eastern men were paced all season long by the 1-2 punch of freshmen Ryan Escoda (Newtown) and John Walker (Westerly, RI), and nothing changed in Saturday's Little East Conference Championship.

Competing in their first conference championship, Escoda and Walker ran in tandem again over 8,000 meters, with Escoda 16th and Walker 17th in a field of 81 finishers as the Warriors placed fifth in a field of nine teams. Overall, the meet was a showcase of sorts for freshmen, who grabbed eight of the Top 20 spots.

In fact, Eastern's top five was comprised of three freshmen and two sophomores.

Plymouth State junior Sam Brunnette won his second straight individual title but the Panthers finished a distant third behind the University of Southern Maine, which edged UMass Dartmouth by five points for its third straight men's title. All five of USM's scoring runners squeezed into the top 13 places while UMass Dartmouth's No. 5 was only 22nd (11 places behind the team's No. 4 finisher).

McKosky, Knox repeat as All-LEC

For the second straight season, two Eastern runners earned All-Little East honors with Top 10 finishers: senior Samantha McKosky (Deep River) became the first Eastern female to earn All-LEC recognition as many as three times since Monica Gallagher (1995, 97-98) with a fifth-place finish, and Knox earned the honor for the second straight year. Knox was sixth overall. McKosky equaled her best in the race, matching her fifth-place finish of her sophomore season.

Following McKosky and Knox for Eastern in a field of 77 finishers were sophomore Sylvia Lawrence (Woodstock), and juniors Samara Johnson (Lebanon) and Rachel Osak (Portland). Lawrence was 15th, Johnson 17th and Osak 19th.  Lawrence was 22nd a year ago, Johnson 32nd, and Osak 13th.

Eastern was the only school to place all five of its scoring runners inside the Top 10, but Keene placed three inside the Top 10, including individual champion Lauren Perkowski, who managed only a 45th-place finish as a sophomore last year. Keene had only two runners among the Top 20 a year ago.

Youthful talent provides comfortable margin over UMass Boston

Behind Escoda and Walker, the trio of sophomores Maxwell Chace (Brooklyn) and Brian Balkus (Ashford) and freshman Jorich Swift (Mansfield) helped the men's team to a 34-point margin over UMass Boston, which was sixth. Chace was 24th overall, Balkus 38th and Swift right behind at 39th.

Eastern closes out its season Nov. 10 at the NCAA Division III New England Regional at Bowdoin College.