UMass Boston Cross Country is preparing for their third meet of the season Sunday at Noon when they take to the Stanley Park course at the NEICAAA Championship in Westfield, Massachusetts.
The Beacons will face an impressive field that will include many of the top DIII teams in New England and a handful of Division I teams.
Coming into just their third meet of the year, the Beacons are hoping to show off how far they've come this season.
"I think this third race is going be a really true test to see how we are improving," first-year assistant cross country coach Eric Ashe said. "The first course (UMass Dartmouth Invitational) was really fast and flat, whereas the second course (Greater Boston Invitational) was more hilly and wooded. But I think just in terms of the workouts, I've seen some huge improvements."
After beginning work with the team a few weeks ago, Ashe has focused on creating a regular routine and work ethic for a group of runners that have come from a myriad of backgrounds.
"I think what we've done so far is stay consistent, workout every Tuesday and Thursday and Saturday tends to be a longer run," said Ashe. "Just by staying consistent with that, there's no doubt in my mind that we're going to see some big improvements.
Some guys were having difficulty completing regular runs [at the start of the season] and now everyone's running a much faster pace than they started out at. I think we should see that Sunday."
The Beacons are led by seniors Jake Kerin (Quincy, Mass.) and Nicole Sidiropoulos (Carver, Mass.). Kerin's 26:42 in his first race of the year was a personal best, while Sidiropulos is the only lady Beacon to have broken the 24-minute mark (23:13) this season.
"So far Delaney and Colbert [have surprised]," Ashe said. "When they came on, I wasn't sure how much of a contribution they were going to make on the team but they're starting to learn-I can race five miles, not just run five miles. Just seeing them in workouts, they're able to handle much quicker workouts and they've really surprised me so far. "
On the women's side, Ari Leao (New Bedford, Mass.) and Mari Littlelton (Nashua, N.H.) have shown great strides to begin the season.