By Jake Sauberman, news correspondent

Following a weaker finish in last week’s meet at Boston College, the Northeastern University (NU) men’s and women’s cross country teams brought their game up a notch Saturday. The Huskies were up against top running universities from across the nation, which converged in Minnesota for the Roy Griak Invitational.

Despite the strong competition, the Northeastern men’s team finished 20th out of 29 in the 8K event, taking down notable programs such as Duke University and the University of Arizona. They were led by senior  Paul Duffey, who ran a 26:08 time and placed an impressive 59th in a field of 263.

Duffey commented on the challenges the team had to face in the meet.

“[The other competitors] had more previous experience running the course than we did, which made it that much more challenging,” he said. “For those of us who ran, it was our first competition this year.”

He was followed by junior Christian Stafford (113th, 26:52), senior Robert Macon (127th, 27:04), sophomore Dan Romano (128th, 27:05), freshman Chance Lambert (136th, 27:10), sophomore Tucker McNinch (169th, 27:45) and senior Patrick Cunningham (193rd, 28:38).

“All things considered, with poor weather on a foreign course, our team did really well,” Duffey said. “We beat a few teams that we weren’t expecting to.”

The first two meets of the season have seen the Huskies lean on their upperclassmen to lead the pack, an essential move for a team tackling unforeseen terrain in national competition. Running out a fresh new seven from the members who ran last week came with many risks, but strong senior leadership helped keep it at bay. The team’s top seven runners rested last week in preparation for this meet.

On the women’s side, the Huskies mustered up a 29th place finish out of 36 squads, again taking down prestigious running schools like the U.S. Naval Academy and Rutgers University. Six of the seven runners from the first meet at Boston College competed again in Minnesota, displaying impressive durability and resilience.

Just as last week, senior Lucy Young finished first among Northeastern runners, earning a place just outside the top 100 at 102nd of 336, with a 23:26 time in the 6K. Following her were senior Jordan O’Dea (132nd, 23:49), freshman Louiza Wise (156th, 24:11), junior Brooke Wojeski (167th, 24:19), sophomore Elizabeth Harrington (19th, 24:50), freshman Amanda Hickey (199th, 24:52), and junior Kerri Ruffo (221st, 25:23).

Wise’s contributions in particular have been a key catalyst to the Huskies’ squad. It’s rare for a freshman to finish top three for his or her respective team, and Wise has accomplished that feat twice in two meets. She has shown the ability to jump right in and contribute meaningfully in her first season of collegiate athletics.

A combination of exceptional underclassmen performances and sturdy upperclassmen leadership guided the Huskies to the largely successful meet in Minnesota. Northeastern cross country will be back on the grind on Oct. 8 in Boston for the New England Championships.

There’s no shortage of optimism from Duffey, who has high expectations for the rest of the season.

“Of course there is room for improvement from everyone, but it’s only September,” he said. “The real meets are soon to come.”

Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics