WATERVILLE – The North Atlantic Conference (NAC) office announced the recipients of the 2023 cross country major awards and the All-Conference recipients this week and the University of Maine at Farmington cross country teams had an impressive showing posting nine total athletes on All-Conference teams and sweeping the major awards on the men’s side.
First-year Head Coach Robbie Hollis ’19 was named the North Atlantic Conference Men’s Cross Country Coach of the Year. Hollis has been an assistant coach for the program since 2021 but was hired as the Head Coach this past July. In his first season as the head of the program, Hollis led the men’s cross country team to the NAC Championship for the first time since 2003. The men’s group is one of the deepest rosters the program has ever orchestrated as seven of the eight runners who competed in the NAC Championship this past Saturday placed inside the top-15. The Beavers walked away from the rest of the field, finishing with 24 points while 2nd place SUNY Delhi finished with 93 points.
Hollis started his career off with a bang, leading the Beavers to a 1st place finish at their season-opening meet on September 9th at the Ron Ouellette Invitational. The very next weekend, the Beavers grabbed their second 1st place finish in as many weeks, taking the win at the NAC Preview Meet at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. The Beavers had six of the top eight finishers at the NAC Preview Meet, sending an early message that they were for real. Hollis also led the Beavers to an impressive 5th place finish at the Suffolk Invitational held at Franklin Park in Boston, Massachusetts. At that meet the Beavers the top-five Beavers finishers finished with a program best average 8k time of 27:00, 38 seconds faster than the previous record set last season at the Maine State Championship.
Senior Justin Castaldo (Scarborough, Maine) was named the North Atlantic Conference Runner of the Year after his individual 1st place finish at the NAC Championship this past Saturday. Castaldo posted an 8k time of 27:37.4 for the day with an average mile time of 5:33.4. Castaldo also cut a healthy 41 seconds off from his time from the NAC Preview Meet at the exact same course on September 17th. Castaldo placed 2nd overall at the NAC Preview meet, finishing 10 seconds behind Ponce Saltysiak of Maine Maritime. Castaldo turned the table at the NAC Championship, beating Saltysiak, who came in 3rd, by 10 seconds. Castaldo also beat Nick Logan of SUNY Cobleskill by 2.8 seconds.
Castaldo had one of the most decorated cross country seasons in program history and became the first male to win the NAC Runner of the Year since Hollis did so in 2015. Castaldo finished 3rd overall in the first two meets of the year, at the Ron Ouellette Invitational and the NAC Championship meet. At the Maine State Championship at Saxl Park Castaldo placed 18th overall with an impressive 8k time of 27:07.5, the 3rd fastest 8k in program history. Castaldo also placed 16th overall at the Suffolk Invitational.
First-year Ethan Linscott (Lakeville, Maine) was named the NAC Rookie of the Year after being the first first-year across the finish line this past weekend at the NAC Championship. Linscott placed 8th overall, posting an 8k time of 28:19.6. Linscott was part of the five scoring Beavers who averaged 8k time of 28:03 for the meet, leading the Beavers to the Championship trophy.
Linscott continued to get better each and every meet for the Beavers, certainly saving his best for last en route to claiming the NAC Rookie of the Year honors and being a 1st Team All-Conference recipient. Linscott was 43 seconds faster in the NAC Championship race than he was on the exact same course at the NAC Preview Meet back on September 17th when he posted a time of 29:02.8. Linscott opened his season with a pair of 8th place finishes at the Ron Ouellette Invitational and NAC Preview Meet, narrowly missing a medal in each as the top-seven finishers medal. Linscott became the first Beaver to be named the NAC Rookie of the Year since Jeremiah Sands in 2017.
On top of winning three major awards, the men’s cross country team had seven athletes named to the NAC All-Conference teams while the women had a pair of athletes receive All-Conference honors.
Castaldo and Linscott are joined on the NAC 1st Team All-Conference by a trio of Beavers as Luke Bliss (Underhill, Vermont), James Riley (Shrewsbury, Mass.), and Jimmy Reel (Nashua, N.H.) all received 1st Team All-Conference honors. Three-time Rookie of the Week Andrew LaFlamme (Nashua, N.H.) and Connor Freeman (Bath, Maine) were named to the 2nd Team All-Conference. On the women’s side Joy Evans (Farmington, Maine) was named to the 1st Team All-Conference while Anna MacDonald (Bangor, Maine) was named to the 2nd Team All-Conference.