November 1, 2002

Men Look Forward to Opportunity to Show Their Improvement

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Big meets always happen when the leaves start to fall and the weather is unpredictable, when the day could be a rainy 35-degree hell or 60 degrees, dry and perfect. At this time of year it’s impossible to tell which way it will go.

Men’s distance coach Robert Johnson minces no words:

“This is definitely the biggest meet of the year.”

The men’s cross country team travels to Van Cortland Park for the Heptagonal league championships today.

“Everyone is extremely excited,” said Johnson, “[today] represents a wonderful opportunity.

“We have a chance to really show everyone the incredible amount of improvement we’ve done,” he continued.

For the whole season the team has chosen to focus on steady and reliable improvement. It created a game plan and did its best to stick to it. So far, the strategy has served the Red well.

“The key for the guys is that they go out and run their own race,” said Johnson.

The runners will aim for even splits, starting off nice and steady and picking off their opponents as they go, just like they’ve done at big meets in the past.

“They executed perfectly at pre-nationals,” Johnson noted, citing the Red’s most recent meet.

Now they just need to repeat the performance, and the coach is sure that won’t be a problem.

“I’m 100 percent confident that the guys are ready to run their best race of the season,” said Johnson.

“Our top five have run faster in each and every race,” he noted. “We’re improving at a great rate.”

Coming into the race the Red has not drawn the notice of most Heps coaches. Five teams are regarded as contenders for the title ahead of Cornell. Navy, Columbia and Princeton are all in the mix, and Brown has an outside shot. Last year’s champion, No. 24 Dartmouth, is the favorite. But that’s not to say the results are decided.

As Navy head coach Al Cantello told, “There’s still 25 minutes of gut-busting.”

“This is one of the deepest and most competitive fields at Heps in the last ten years,” said Johnson.

The Red will look to take advantage of that parity to make a serious run at the championship.

“We don’t have any pressure,” noted Johnson.

That should make Cornell a force to be reckoned with on the course, and the race should be just a bit easier for the runners.

“They all know that we’re ready to go,” said Johnson about the men. “They’ve been extremely consistent in their performance and improvement.”

And today will put them to the test.

“It’s by far the biggest race of the season, but you can’t look at it any differently,” concluded Johnson.

If everything stays on track, the team should do well.

Today at 11:30, in whatever weather, 8000 meters will tell.

Archived article by Matt James