Andrea Keklak

Last fall, the Georgetown men’s and women’s cross country teams closed out their seasons with two top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind. Led by All-American senior Katrina Coogan, the women’s team placed fourth in the race behind Michigan State, Iowa State and New Mexico. Graduate student John Murray was the first to finish for the men’s team, helping the Hoyas to a 17th-place finish behind Big East competitors Villanova and Providence.

This year, the Hoyas have the talent and the attitude to repeat this success, led by new Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Michael Smith. Smith replaced Patrick Henner in the wake of multiple investigations into the track program over the summer.

In the rankings released by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, the Georgetown women are ranked fifth in the country behind Iowa State, New Mexico, Michigan State and Colorado. The men are currently occupying the 16th slot nationally.

Both the men’s and women’s teams lost key players, including Coogan. Coogan is a graduate student this year and will be eligible for track and field, but not for cross-country because she has already used her four years of eligibility. Although Coogan’s absence from the Hoyas’ starting seven is certainly detrimental, it opens up an opportunity for other athletes to obtain leadership positions and strive for that No. 1 spot.

“Any time you have someone like a Katrina not with you, it’s certainly a loss, but what’s really exciting about that is it kind of clears the way for other people to step up, and that’s the really fun part as a coach on the women’s side right now,” Smith said.

Senior All-American Samantha Nadel and graduate student All-American Andrea Keklak were two individuals who, in addition to Coogan, led the Blue and Gray to its fourth-place finish at the championship. Nadel finished 37th overall, while Keklak finished just three seconds after her to nab 40th place. Other top returners on the women’s side include seniors Haley Pierce and Sarah Cotton.

The men’s team returns several key athletes who have led the Hoyas to top finishes in meets throughout the regular season. Senior Darren Fahy and junior Jonathan Green finished second and third, respectively, among the Hoyas in the 2014 NCAA Championships. In the offseason, Fahy finished 10th overall at the USA Track & Field Championships in the 3000-meter steeplechase.

“You’ve got some athletes that now have experience on the national stage and are coming off a great, great season,” Smith said. “Darren Fahy is coming off a huge 2015 outdoor track season. … John Green qualified for the NCAA meet outdoors and has had a lot of success in the distances, so we’re really excited about him being in the mix as well.”

Both the men’s and the women’s seasons will begin this Saturday. The men will travel to Annapolis, Md. for the Navy Invitational, while the women will compete in the James Madison Invitational in Harrisonburg, Va.

“In the early-season cross country meets, these are opportunities for testing grounds for athletes’ fitness. Most of them haven’t raced since May or June at the end of the track season, it’s a good place for us to check in on the general conditioning of the athlete,” Smith said.

In the long term, the ultimate goal is to return to the NCAA Championships and improve the results from last season. Even though both the men’s and women’s sides lost key runners, both Fahy and Nadel have positive outlooks on the season.

“We lost some important guys, but I think we can probably do better than we did last year at NCAAs,” Fahy said. “I think top 10 at NCAAs would be good in cross country.”

“On the team level, the goal is always to win nationals,” Nadel said.

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