For a runner, there’s always a little bit of uncertainty before the first cross country race of the season. It’s inevitably a little warmer than you would like it, and it has usually been a while since you’ve put your body through this much pain.
But at the same time, there’s excitement. It’s time to see what people can do.
“I like to think of it as the first hard workout of the season,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson.
The men’s and women’s cross country teams open their seasons at home on the Moakley Course against Army this afternoon. The women’s race goes off at 4:30, and the men’s begins at 5:15.
After a summer of running and three weeks of practice, both teams are eager to see how they stand up against some real competition.
“It’s a chance to see what practice has done,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. “This gives you an idea of where you are.”
“It’s a marking point,” Johnson. “I know the guys are excited to get out there and see where they are.”
For the men’s team, the race offers an opportunity for the upperclassmen to gauge their progress after the summer and for the freshmen to get their first experience on a five-mile course. Just as important, it’s a chance to run against some kids in different uniforms.
But that’s definitely not to say that this will be a make-or-break race. Quite to the contrary, it’s only the first small step in the season.
“The winning and the losing isn’t that important,” said Johnson.
At this stage of the season, the important thing is to get out, run a good race, and set a mark from which to improve.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to push it,” Johnson noted.
“For a lot of the freshmen it’s the first time they’ve had to run five miles,” he continued.
Today will give them a great opportunity to test themselves and gain some experience before the big meets later in the season. To that end, Johnson is asking his runners to, above all, run a smart race.
“I really want the guys to hold back for the first mile,” said the coach.
From there, they can work on moving up and finishing off their races strong. In the end, Johnson wants to make sure his team has a good race and puts itself in a good position to succeed later in the season.
“We’ve got a lot of good upperclassmen out there and a lot of hungry freshmen,” noted Johnson. “Guys will be out there giving it their all.”
The women’s team will go into the race with a similar attitude to the men.
“I’m looking for the quality of effort,” said Duesing.
But at the same time, he noted the importance of the competitive aspect of the meet. Simply running isn’t enough.
“It’s important to race, because it is a race,” said Duesing. “If you’re going to race, you race to win,” he added.
And Army should offer ample competition for the Red.
“They’ve been the preseason pick to win the Patriot League, so they’re probably a pretty good team,” said Duesing.
The results though, are anyone’s guess, since this is both teams’ first meet of the season.
For the ladies, the meet will offer the freshmen a chance to see collegiate competition for the first time and give the upperclassmen a chance to compare their results with years’ past.
“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone compete,” said Duesing. “All the people coming to the line have done some great work over the summer.”
The bottom line though, is going out and putting in a solid race.
“I told them to go out and give your very best effort,” Duesing said.
And that’s really what it comes down to for both teams.
“It’s really just the starting point,” said Johnson.
“We’re going to have to go a lot faster in the weeks to come,” he concluded.
Duesing had a similar sentiment for his team.
“I don’t think where we are is going to be where we finish,” said the coach.
Archived article by Matt James