October 22, 2002

X-Country Performs At Pre-Nationals

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The soft Indiana hills answered some questions then asked some others. The men’s and women’s cross country teams had mixed results at the Indiana State University course in Terre Haute over the weekend.

The men’s team finished 18th in a 36 team field that included 10 nationally-ranked teams. The Red claimed victory over No. 23 Duke.

“We were really pleased with how things went,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson.

Senior captain Dan Dombroski paced the team, followed by sophomore Bruce Hyde, senior captain Geoff Van Fleet, and classmate Barry Kahn. Running fifth for the Red was sophomore Emory Mort, and juniors Dan Hart and Oliver Tassinari rounded out the team.

Dombroski, Hyde, Kahn, Mort and Hart all ran personal best times, and Van Fleet continued his recovery from an achilles injury by running his best race in two years.

“Geoff Van Fleet and Barry Kahn ran their best races of the season,” said Johnson. “By far.”

They were part of an excellent performance by the whole group.

“It was really a great team effort,” noted Johnson. “The most impressive thing was the way the guys went out and executed.”

Two hundred and forty four runners finished the race. Coming through the first mile of the 8000 meter course, Dombroski, who went on to finish 37th, was around 200th place. Five of the Red’s other runners followed the field, in last place.

It was all part of the plan, though. Johnson wanted the team to stay slow at the beginning, then start to pick people off.

“They just kept moving up, and it went according to plan,” said Johnson.

Had the meet been scored at the mile mark, the Red would have lost by a wide margin, with about 1600 points. Instead, Cornell beat 18 teams with a score of 521.

“I wanted the guys to run their own race,” Johnson said.

And that strategy served the team well. The results of the meet met the team’s goal — to keep getting better.

“We showed significant signs of improvement,” said Johnson. “It proved we’re one of the top 40 or 50 teams in the country.”

With similar improvement over the next two weeks, the men should be just where they want to for the Heptagonal Championships. The race in Indiana is just one big step along the way.

Meanwhile, women’s cross country head coach Lou Duesing hopes his team can learn from its mistakes at the meet, where it finished 22nd of 37 teams. Eleven of the competitors were nationally ranked.

There were several bright spots among the individuals.

“Jenn Meil and Sara Karam had very good races,” head coach Lou Duesing said.

Both Meil, a sophomore, and Karam, a senior, showed significant improvements against a strong field.

As a team, though, Cornell’s women didn’t fare so well.

“I think people feel, and I would agree with them, that they didn’t run the race they wanted to run, [and] they didn’t run the races they were ready to run,” said head coach Lou Duesing.

It was a disappointing finish for the Red, which had higher hopes coming in, but the ladies had problems in the big race, much as they did earlier in the year at the Iona Meet of Champions.

“By and large it was a huge field, a very competitive field, and they got distracted,” Duesing noted. “They lost focus in the middle and towards the end of the race.”

And that resulted in a sub-par performance for the team.

“They didn’t do well in the circumstance,” Duesing concluded.

However, that does not necessarily bode ill for the rest of the team’s season. The most important meets lay ahead, particularly in two weeks, when the Red runs at Heps, and Duesing is hoping the team can apply some of the lessons from Indiana to those races.

“If we did learn from it, we have several meets in front of us that will be pretty fun,” Duesing concluded. “The primary focus is to do the best we can at Heps.

“I think from a training standpoint, people have done a remarkable job,” Duesing continued.

The runners just need to translate their work into the races — a task not necessarily easy to perform.

“I continue to feel very positive about the group as a whole,” said Duesing.

He also noted the performance of the runners not at the Pre-National meet. Both the men’s and women’s teams sent the majority of their runners to the Harry Anderson Invitational in Rochester.

Duesing commended senior Natalie Whelan, sophomore Amber McGown, and freshmen Mandy Knuckles and Emily McCabe, in particular, and the whole group there in general.

“They ran very well in some tough conditions,” he said.

The team hopes that it can put up better performance at Heps.

Archived article by Matt James