THEY LOST the only coach they'd had in college suddenly in July, and no one knew the new coach.
But running with the letters "TORP" on their jerseys at the Atlantic 10 cross-country championship meet Saturday in Charlotte, N.C., La Salle's men and women, formerly coached by Charles Torpey, now by Dan Ireland, both won league titles.
Leading the way were men's individual champion Alfredo Santana, a junior from Esperanza Academy in North Philly, and Caitlin Storbeck, a senior from Archbishop Carroll, whose sixth-place finish led the Explorers.
Torpey died of a heart attack while supervising a training run in Fairmount Park in July.
"[Torpey's death] was very sudden," Storbeck said. "We leaned on each other. We had a relationship with coach Torpey. He made us the runners we are now.
"We wish he could be here to see how he helped us to become the team we are."
"We were favored [to win the A-10 title], but in the circumstances, we were inspired," Santana said.
Santana was named the meet's outstanding male performer, and was a first-team all-league selection with teammates Nick Ross (sophomore), and seniors Nick Crits and David Hausherr, with sophomore Luke Arbuckle the fifth scorer. Storbeck and juniors Meghan McGlinchey, Stephanie Bearish and Wendy Hutchinson were women's all-league choices; another junior, Caroline Grant, was the Explorers' fifth scorer.
Ireland was named coach of the year for both men and women.
"This win is something that coach Torpey put together," Ireland, who formerly coached at Yale, said on the La Salle athletics website. "He got them to this point. It was our job to finish the job."
Saint Joseph's freshman Paul Szulewski was named the A-10's male rookie of the year, and teammates Kevin O'Donnell and Jon Mazzio were all-league choices. The Hawks' Hannah Fuller was an all-league women's choice.
Senior Sheila Reid, the defending NCAA individual champion, won her third straight individual crown, and Villanova's women and men both won team titles at the Big East meet in Louisville on Saturday.
Matthew Gibney's fifth-place finish led the Wildcat men across the finish line.
Also earning women's all-Big East honors for 'Nova were senior Bogdana Mimic and sophomore Nicky Akande.
On the men's side, Gibney, Keith Capecci and Ryan Sheridan, all seniors, were top-10 finishers. Villanova's men's score of 43 points was 51 better than second-place Georgetown, the largest margin of victory in a Big East cross-country meet since 1982.