Nick DeCrescenzo '09 was on his way up a small hill a little more than three miles into the America East cross-country championships when he started to hurt. Then Matt O'Connor '09 surged past, shouting words of encouragement: "Come on! Let's go!" DeCrescenzo shook off his fatigue, yelling back, "Let's do this!" and picking up the pace again. A mile and a half later, DeCrescenzo, O'Connor, Joshua Kearns '10 and Ben Jenkins '09 flew across the finish line within nine seconds of each other. Brent Powers '09 crossed the finish line 17 seconds later.
No other America East school had more than two runners among the first 10 finishers in the race; the Wildcats had four as they captured their third straight conference title. But thanks to a series of injuries, neither DeCrescenzo nor O'Connor had started the season as part of the Wildcats' cross-country travel roster.
"They were like two phantoms to people in the conference," says UNH cross-country coach Jim Boulanger '75, whose team now has won eight of the last 11 America East titles. "I'm sure people wondered, 'Where did these guys come from?'"
Both DeCrescenzo and O'Connor had the talent to do well; O'Connor had placed fourth at the America East championships the year before, and DeCrescenzo placed fifth at the America East 10,000-meter championships during last spring's outdoor track season. But both had the same problem that kept them off the track early in the season: Both couldn't figure out how to train any way other than full throttle.
DeCrescenzo missed almost two seasons with an assortment of injuries, including tendinitis. When he resumed training, he took it too far. "I started worrying that I was starting to burn out," he says. Then he changed his regimen, making sure he got one day of recovery after every long run. "From there, I started feeling good," he says. "As the races went on, I was becoming more confident." And by the first week of November, he was at the front of the pack that lifted his team to its third straight America East title.
"I'm not even sure he was on the travel roster the year before," Boulanger says. "But it was his work ethic and dedication. He didn't lose sight of his goal to be a collegiate runner at a high level."Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents