When asked about their teams’ performances at the NCAA Northeast Regional cross country meets, both men’s distance coach Robert Johnson and women’s head coach Lou Duesing had similar responses: a coach can’t ask his runners to do much more than make sure their best race is the one that counts most.
Both the men’s and women’s teams placed sixth in their respective fields.
The Women’s Team
“We had designs on finishing higher than that,” said Duesing.
Coming in, the women held a No. 5 ranking in the region behind Columbia, Providence, Boston College, and Yale. They looked to take down Yale for a fourth-place finish.
When the final scores were tallied, the Red finished behind the aforementioned schools and Dartmouth.
However, the missed goal fails to reflect the team’s performance. The runners improved significantly over their performances at the Iona Meet of Champions — the last time they ran a six kilometer race at Van Cortland Park.
The competition just ran a little bit faster this time.
“It’s hard to ask them to do more than improve,” said Duesing.
Several stellar individual races highlighted the team’s performance. Senior captain Carlan Gray paced the ladies with a 16th-place finish.
“Gray competed very well,” said Duesing. “I think she had a very good effort.”
The coach also praised senior Natalie Whelan, the team’s fifth runner.
“Natalie Whelan might have run the best,” Duesing concluded, pointing to her significant improvement over the past weeks.
Whelan ran the last five kilometers of the 6k race as quickly as she ran the whole 5k course at Heps.
Duesing also singled out sophomore Jenn Meil, freshman Christy Planer, and senior Sara Karam for their solid performances. They were the team’s third, fourth, and sixth runners, respectively.
On the junior varsity, the coach noted juniors Aliza Cohen and Christine Eckstadt, sophomores Alyssa Simon and Sarah Coseo, and freshman Emily McCabe for their accomplishments.
Next weekend, the team will run its last race of the year, the ECAC Championships, also at Van Cortland Park in New York City.
The Red’s solid performance at the regional meet can only help it there.
“It shouldn’t in any way act as a negative,” said Duesing.
With its sixth-place finish, the men’s team went a long way toward finishing its season on a strong note, too.
“I think everyone on the team was pleased with Saturday’s performance,” said Johnson.
Coming in, the team didn’t even register in the regional top ten.
“It is really important for setting the tone in years to come,” said Johnson.
The conclusive proof of improvement will give the coach, in his first year at Cornell, a slightly easier road in the future.
“Sixth place is a good assessment of where we are as a distance program,” Johnson said. “We’re probably a year or two away from having a shot at qualifying for the national championships.”
Regardless of future expectations, the team ran well.
Sophomores Bruce Hyde and Emory Mort continued their steady improvement, and several other runners had excellent races, according to Johnson.
“Bruce Hyde and Emory Mort have been just incredible all year,” the coach said. “Senior Barry Kahn ran much better than he did at Heps.”
Fellow senior Daryn Johnson ran his “best race of the year” to break into the team’s top five.
Hyde led the team with a sixth-place finish in the race. He was the third finisher from the Heptagonal Conference.
“He really showed that he’s one of the top sophomores in the East,” said Johnson. “In my mind, [he] deserves to be in the national meet.”
The Red’s performance in the regional should help give it an extra push heading into its final meet of the season, the IC4A Championships, also in Van Cortland Park.
“We made a lot of strides in the last three months, and we didn’t show that at Heps,” said Johnson.
This past weekend served as a sort of redemption for that race.
“I think everyone feels a lot better about themselves,” Johnson concluded.
In that respect, the Red’s race was an unquestionable success.
“It was really important for us to prove to ourselves we’ve made a lot of progress,” said Johnson. “It has sort of validated what we’ve done in the past five months. It was our best race of the season.”
Archived article by Matt James