Coming into its third meet of the season, the women’s cross country team is still undefeated after crushing Army in its season opener three weeks ago and coming out ahead of 23 other teams at the Iona Meet of Champions this past weekend. Tomorrow the women will compete in the Paul Short Invitational hosted by Lehigh in Bethlehem, Penn.
The Red has not competed in the event since 2003, due to the varying dates of the invitational because of Lehigh’s football schedule. Two years ago, the Red placed seventh as a team in the field, led by current senior Mandy Knuckles’ 34th-place finish. Tennessee won last year’s team competition with a team score of 53.
This year’s race boasts four nationally-ranked teams, including Villanova (No. 8), Tennessee (No. 15), Columbia (No. 20), and Georgetown (No. 26). The caliber of teams will make for a very competitive race.
“This week there will be a much more difficult field, which will make the race a lot more different up front. Last week’s field was more crowded in the middle, so the girls could move up as a group during the race,” said head coach Lou Duesing.
Although the depth and quality of the field has increased in comparison to last week, Duesing hopes that his team’s success thus far this season will give the Red the ability to run with the same amount of confidence with which they have been.
“They gained a lot of confidence last weekend. They just kept racing the entire way. No one knew when they crossed the finish line whether we had won as a team,” Duesing said.
The women’s performances in both practices and races thus far have shown their strengths both individually and as a team, as they have consistently exceeded even their own expectations.
Another barrier the women may run into during this competition is the division of the team during the race. Only seven women will be able to compete in the Invitational race, while the rest of the team will compete in the Open event.
“This is the first time that everyone will not be in the same race this year, which could affect them. Until now, people have been able to run all together in practices and in races,” Duesing said.
Duesing has still not determined who will be running in the Invitational race. Since it is early in the season, he will look at each woman’s performance in practices and races up to now, as well as taking into consideration their health. As the season progresses, fewer and fewer people will be able to attend each meet, so running as a smaller group in races is not a trend that will end after tomorrow’s race.
Duesing expects that the large, competitive field will be a good experience for the Red, as undoubtedly the level of their competition will continue to increase as the season moves forward.
“You never know what to expect going into a race. That’s why they fire a gun,” Duesing said.
Archived article by Erin Garry
Sun Staff Writer