Both of head coach Andy Ronan’s Stony Brook Cross Country teams will have to start the season without their star runners. Junior Michael Watts and senior Christina Melian are nursing injuries, leaving a leadership void wide open. The men’s and women’s teams will be looking for a new face to set the tone for their team, filling the vacancy left by the injury bug.
The men’s team will have a new look this year, as 10 freshmen have been named to the roster. Ronan cited new training methods and a heavier workload as two of the biggest adjustments freshmen undergo.
“We work on developing a routine from day one, from the end of August to the middle of May to balance everything,” Ronan said.
Among the freshmen is junior Steven Biondi’s little brother Chris. The younger Biondi was a letter winner his entire high school career at Pine Bush High School and was a captain for the cross country team his senior year. He will have to compete at a higher level in order to be the standout of his freshman class.
The lone senior on the team, Matthew Lee, has a lot of new young talent that he, along with the juniors, will mentor throughout the season.
“While we have a lot of freshmen, on both squads, we do have a really good core of juniors,” Ronan said. The core of juniors, led by Watts, performed very well last year at the conference championships and placed second overall in the conference and 10th in the region.
The women’s team is comprised of mostly upperclassmen talent with considerable experience. Many of Ronan’s athletes participate in both the cross country and track seasons — most notably junior Christine Eisenberg, who was the standout athlete during last year’s track and field season. She was the only athlete to qualify for the NCAA regionals four months ago, competing in the 3000m steeplechase.
Melian remains a solid number-one for Ronan’s squad, but will not compete until October, as she works on regaining her cardio. The senior from Staten Island is already a decorated veteran and is looking to lead the team to a better finish than last year’s third-place conference spot. Ronan believes that the team is ready for a bounceback season.
“We expect to be back in the mix this year with the squad that we have,” Ronan said.
Player to Watch: Christine Eisenberg
Senior Christine Eisenberg looks to follow up her breakout 2016 spring semester in track and field, where she found herself competing in the first round of the NCAA regional championship in the 3000m steeplechase.
With fellow senior star Christina Melian rehabbing an injury, Eisenberg will have an opportunity to emerge as the most prominent team leader. Ronan is hopeful that the momentum from Eisenberg’s performance during the spring track and field season will spill over to the entire team.
“If she can do the same in cross country, that’ll become a big factor in our conference meets,” Ronan said.
The Hauppauge native, who has been a part of the cross country team for three years, will be in the strongest spotlight of her career as her team looks to bounce back from their lowest finish in over seven years at third in the conference.