setting the stage
The Merrimack College men's and women's cross country teams entered the 2016 fall season with strong expectations, as the men lost just four runners to graduation last year and returned 17 athletes, while the women lost just six runners in comparison to their 23 returners. Both squads would look to improve on 2015 seasons that saw the women register four top-five team finishes, while the men finished top-five as a team three times last year.
The Warriors would compete in six meets across the fall season, beginning with three regular season meets during the month of September. The Navy and Gold then entered the postseason in October, taking part in two championship meets before competing at the season-ending NCAA East Regional Championships on the first weekend of November.
regular season success
Both the men and women found success during their three regular season meets, with that success highlighted by back-to-back meet wins for the women's squad. They would begin by taking home first-place at the Kirsh Cup, which also doubled as the NCAA East Regional Preview Meet, taking place in Hopkinton, New Hampshire. They followed that effort with a first-place finish at the Codfish Bowl in Boston, beating out 16 other schools on their way to a second consecutive meet win.
After registering two straight sixth-place finishes in their first two meets to open the season, the men's regular season slate was highlighted by a runner-up finish at the Codfish Bowl in late September to close on a strong note before heading in to the postseason meets.
Across the six-meet season, the men saw career performances from multiple Warriors to help contribute to the team's success during the year. Keith Steinbrecher shined during the regular season for the men, posting the top finish for the Warriors in all three September meets.
Classmate Christian Gentile also performed well for the men throughout the year, consistently finishing among the Warriors' top runners to help the team's cause in each meet, including some strong postseason performances.
After battling through injury during the three regular season meets, senior captain Phil Harris (pictured) excelled for Merrimack in the three postseason meets, registering the top finish for the Warriors in two of the meets, including a record-breaking performance at the Northeast-10 Conference Championships.
The women's unprecedented team success during the 2016 season was due to great campaigns from multiple individuals on the team. Junior Maddie Mercado (pictured) put together a career year in the fall of 2016, posting the best time for Merrimack in four of six races during the year.
The top finish in Merrimack's other two meets would belong to freshman Katherine Ferrara, who burst onto the scene in 2016 to show great promise for the women's team heading into the future. She recorded both of her top finishes in postseason meets
Senior captain Claire Aalerud would be a driving factor for the women's success, both on the course and with her off-the-course leadership as the lone captain. Sophomore Sophie Gorton also was a large contributing factor for the Warriors as she was seen among their top finishes throughout the year.
The Warriors some some notable performances from both squads in the postseason, with the women matching their highest team finish at the NE10 Championships since 1999 with a fourth-place finish out of 15 teams. The women also registered a sixth-place finish at the NCAA East Regional Championships out of 28 teams from the area.
The men would register top-10 finishes at both the NE10 Championships and NCAA Regionals and saw accolades awarded to multiple individuals across the meets. Phil Harris ran his way to All-Conference First Team Recognition at NE10's after finishing fourth in a 154-runner field, setting the school record in the 8k race with a time of 25:28.1. Keith Steinbrecher also earned All-Conference honors, landing on the third team for his finish.
Steinbrecher would also be joined by Christian Gentile to take home All-Region honors at the NCAA East Regional Championships. Their finishes in the top-25 of the meet in a field of 169 runners would earn the juniors the first All-Region honors of their career.