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"They're going to get so far ahead of us," lamented cross-country Coach Bill McCurdy the night before yesterday's meet with Providence and UMass--"They've got both sides of the warring Irish together and put them on one team."
That is certainly a colorful, if somewhat inaccurate, description of the two leading lights of the much-feared and respected Providence cross-country team. In fact senior John Treacy and his precocious freshman teammate Gerry Degan are far from being even remotely antagonistic. Both hail from the same town in Ireland--Waterford (pop. about 35,000), that is, the county seat of Waterford Co. (pop. a little more).
Their origin notwithstanding, the pair did not prompt McCurdy to romanticize about their talent. That quality was in ample abundance yesterday at Franklin Park, where the two Irish imports ran to a dead heat, a three-way tie for first place with teammate Danny Dillon. All three were clocked at 24:01, a stiff pace for this early in the season. Providence's top three sweep, together with the capture of places six, seven and ten, enabled it to overpower UMass, its closest competition, and throttle Harvard. The first Harvard runner to finish the race was Ed Sheehan (no relation), who placed 12th.
But this sort of activity is not unusual for Treacy, who has been leading the Providence pack ever since he came over from the Old Country three years ago. At that time he was the Irish distance champion in the senior division. Now, Providence Coach Bob Amato says, Treacy is an international-class runner.
"It was the competition that attracted me the most," Treacy said yesterday. "The pace is faster here, although the courses tend to be a bit smoother," he added, gazing down at the close-cropped turf of the Franklin Park golf course, where the race had just taken place. "Over there we have to run through farmyards." And this man has run in New York's Van Cortlandt Park.
But as impressive a runner as John Treacy is, it is his compatriot who seems to be the real Providence fireball. For most of his young life, Gerry Degan has been busy racking up every title in sight in his home country. At 16 he was third in the junior division of the Irish Championships and two years later he was number one. Degan continued his winning ways by taking first place in the senior division at 21. He then took his talents abroad to the World Championships, held last March in Dusseldorf, Germany, where he placed 21st.
Degan was originally slated to enter Providence four years ago, but opted instead to work for a while in his family's engineering firm. Providence has such a reputation among the Irish that when he decided to come stateside to further his training he knew right where to go. Providence has become a home-away-from-home for the Irish athletes there, who like it because of its small size and atmosphere of closeness (another of Amato's Gaelic recruits, freshman David Ball, won the junior varsity race in a smoking 15:23.)
When asked about the future, Treacy, Degan, and Coach Amato are in perfect agreement: all roads lead to Moscow. "That's why we're here," John Treacy will tell you with his soft Irish smile, and after seeing these two perform yesterday, it's hard to believe that the 1980 Olympics are not a very real possibility.
And they say Waterford is famous only for its crystal.
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