September 26, 2002

Up to Speed

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Changes are afoot with the men’s cross country team this year.

The team continues its climb back to recognition with a new coaching addition, and as always, plenty of training.

New men’s distance coach Robert Johnson comes to the team looking to take the Red to a new level. Before that can happen, though, the team needs to build its base.

“The biggest goal for us is to have the kids buy into a new training program and focus on [having] their best performances at the end of the season at the important meets,” said head coach Nathan Taylor.

“It’s all about getting kids to peak at the right time,” added Johnson.

The team faces no easy task, though. The Heptagonal conference, consisting of the Ivy League schools and Navy, is exceptionally balanced. Any of the teams could succeed on a given day with its best performance.

“Finishing in the top three at Heps [the Heptagonal championship] would be an exceptional performance,” said Taylor. “If we run our best, we’ll be just fine,” he continued.

Leading the way for the team will be senior captains Dan Dombroski and Geoff Van Fleet. The duo represents the team’s tremendous potential.

Van Fleet has one of the top-10 Cornell cross country times ever, and he also earned a seventh-place finish at Heps in 2000. He lost last year, however, to a torn achilles tendon. He’s put his mileage in over the summer, though, and after running this fall’s workouts on the track, the coaches are hopeful.

“He looks like he’s ready to run pretty well,” said Taylor.

Dombroski is in a similar situation. After losing part of the summer to injury, the coaches look for him to return strong.

“Dan has been training his brains out,” said Taylor. “He’s probably farther along than he thinks he is.”

Following the captains will be seniors Barry Kahn and Daryn Johnson. Kahn, a regular scorer last year, looks to lead the team with Van Fleet and Dombroski, while Johnson should become a regular contributor after a strong summer.

Bruce Hyde heads up a solid sophomore contingent on the team. He looks to convert some excellent summer training into a regular spot among the top-three runners on the team.

Both Johnson and Taylor pointed to his “dramatic potential.”

And that trait — potential — seems to sum up the 2002 cross country team very well.

“This year’s team is an unproven one,” noted Taylor.

Only one of the Red’s top-eight runners ran in the first meet at Army.

“It’s a team that’s got a few senior stars in Van Fleet and Dombroski, and it has a few seniors in Kahn and Johnson, and from then on it’s dominated by sophomores and freshmen,” said Taylor.

The team’s relative youth doesn’t deter Johnson, though. In the end, he said, the goal is to win Heps.

“There are more talented teams in the conference,” he noted, “but we have a real strong top three [in Van Fleet, Dombroski and Hyde], and we have more than our share of guys who can fill in the rest.”

And the conference meet, Heps, is only the beginning.

“If you’re running well at Heps, then nationals should take care of itself,” said Johnson.

And before Heps, it’s all about preparation. That’s where the team is right now, getting ready for future success.

Archived article by Matt James