By Jake Sauberman, news correspondent

As clouds loomed large overhead on an early October afternoon in Franklin Park, Northeastern University runners lined up at the starting line with 33 other schools from around the northeast region. The women’s team would defeat all but three, while the men’s team would leave no school ahead of it.

Northeastern made history on Saturday, Oct. 8 at the New England Championship. Not since 1972 had the men’s team finished first in the meet, making the statement that the Huskies can not only keep up with fellow northeast schools, but that they are a legitimate threat at the top of the pack.

Senior Paul Duffey led the way for Northeastern, taking an impressive 12th-place finish with an 8K time of 25:08. Following him were junior Christian Stafford (14th, 25:10), sophomore Dan Romano (16th, 25:15), freshman Chance Lamberth (18th, 25:18), senior Robert Macon (42nd, 25:39), sophomore Michael Potter (58th, 25:57) and junior Jay Navin (109th, 26:38).

No Husky men’s runner finished in the top-10, but four finished between 12th and 18th. Top-to-bottom consistency propelled Northeastern to the top.

Among those four to finish in the top 18 was Christian Stafford, a junior who showed no signs of surprise when his team took first place.

“We go into every race with the mindset that we’re going to win,” Stafford said. “I think that’s the best way to approach every race, with a positive mindset and high expectations.”

The New England Championship marked the second straight meet that Duffey led the men’s Huskies. He was also NU’s top runner at the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 24. But according to Stafford, Duffey’s contributions far exceed his performances on the course.

“Paul [Duffey] is a great leader in both cross country and life in general,” he said. “He’s one of the funniest guys I know, always putting smiles on everyone’s faces, and he’s always helping us figure out what we can do to improve our performances.”

Senior leadership that can bring the whole team together is a catalyst for any team, and it was a big reason why three non-seniors were able to finish top-18 overall.

However, the historic performance was only beginning. The women’s team put together an equally impressive showing in Franklin Park. Their fourth-place finish out of the 35 teams in attendance was the highest the women’s team had ever finished in the New England Championship in school history.

Leading the way for this historic 5K run was senior Jordan O’Dea, who crossed the finish line second overall with a time of 17:43. Behind her were senior Lucy Young (15th, 18:17), junior Brooke Wojeski (35th, 18:36), sophomore Elizabeth Harrington (46th, 18:46), freshman Louiza Wise (59th, 18:54), junior Kerri Ruffo (119th, 19:34) and sophomore Camila Cortina (121st, 19:35).

Duffey and O’Dea were both named CAA Runner of the Week for their strong performances.

Everyone suiting up for Northeastern that day understood how impressive both sides of the program ran.

“Our team is one big family, so it’s always great to celebrate each other’s success,” Stafford said. “We’re all very proud of the ladies, and we’re looking forward to accomplishing even greater achievements together.”

Those greater achievements will likely come at the Colonial Athletic Association Championship on Oct. 29 in Delaware, with the Huskies making a stop in Connecticut on Oct. 21 for the Central Connecticut State University Mini Meet.

In the meantime, Stafford and the Northeastern runners aren’t likely to forget about their victory in Franklin Park.

“This win was really huge for us and it will definitely serve as inspiration and motivation for the remainder of our season,” Stafford said.

Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics