Friday afternoon was a perfect afternoon to be out on the golf course, 70 degrees and sunny with just a hint of breeze, the perfect way to start the weekend. But at the Robert Trent Jones course, the men’s and women’s cross country teams had the run of the place.
The teams opened their seasons against Army that afternoon on the Moakley Cross Country Course, with the women picking up a victory, 26-33, and the men falling, 19-39.
For both teams, youth was the order of the day. On the women’s side, Cornell’s top three runners were a sophomore and two freshmen. For the men, two of the top three runners were freshmen.
Women’s head coach Lou Duesing was pleased with his team’s results for the day.
“Right through the top seven, I was really happy with them,” said the coach.
Quite a few runners set their personal-best times on the course, and several set their personal records for 5,000-meters. That was quite an accomplishment, Duesing noted, on a slow course and a warm afternoon.
“To have that happen speaks very highly of the amount of work they did over the summer,” he said.
Sophomore Mandy Knuckles led the way for the ladies, finishing second with a time of 18:59 on the 5k course. Freshmen Nyam Kagwima and Megs DiDario filled the team’s second and third spots, respectively, placing third and sixth in the race.
DiDario and Kagwima were half of the four freshmen in the top eight for the team.
Senior Natalie Gingerich, sophomore Angela Kudla, freshman Erin Linehan, senior captain Christine Eckstaedt, and freshman Robyn Ellerbrock rounded out the team’s top runners.
Overall, Duesing was satisfied with what he saw in the season’s first race.
“We’re a little bit better off than I thought we were,” said Duesing.
The team battled through the meet without four of its top runners, as seniors Jessica Parrott and Kinsy Miller both sat out, as well as juniors Kate Boyles and Sarah Coseo.
“With so many people waiting in the wings, it’s hard to get a good idea of where we are as a team,” Duesing said.
The Army race, he noted, usually isn’t the best indicator of how the team will take shape towards the end of the season. There’s just too much time between now and November, and too much can happen.
“People will probably run a lot faster later in the season,” Duesing concluded.
The Men’s Team
On the men’s side the Red fell to a more experienced Army team. But from the start, men’s distance coach Robert Johnson said the win or loss wasn’t the most important thing in the meet.
“There were certainly some things I was very pleased with,” said Johnson. “I was really happy with the way the top three ran — all three of them ran great races.”
Junior Emory Mort paced the team with a fourth-place finish and a time of 25:58 on the five-mile course. Freshmen Rick Lader and Brad Baird followed him, finishing in fifth and eighth places with times of 26:13 and 26:24.
Johnson noted junior Vasanth Coorg and sophomore Greg King for their solid races, in addition to Mort and the top two freshmen.
“There are certainly a lot of positives to take out of it,” said Johnson.
But at the same time, he noted, “It’s only the first race.”
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Baird after the race.
His plan was just to stick with the pack and see how it felt, trying to work up in the race as he went along. His results were welcome after the months of preparation.
“It really shows me my work has paid off over the summer,” said Baird. “It just allowed me to stay consistent.”
The early success of the freshman class is good news for Johnson, too.
“To have two freshmen run that fast is something that really excites me,” said the coach.
To put it in perspective, Johnson noted that junior John Goldsmith ran a 26:40 as a freshman on the same course and went on to place 27th at Heps. Lader and Baird both beat that time by a safe margin.
And behind them in the class are at least two other guys who are just as talented, with just as much ability, said Johnson.
“That gives us some stuff to build with,” concluded the coach. “We’re a lot further ahead of where we were [at this point] a year ago.”
At the same time, he noted, there’s still a long way to go.
“We’ll have a much better idea of where we are in two weeks when we run at Van Cortlandt Park,” he said.
The big meets are when the season really starts rolling. That’s when the results start to matter.
“Two months from now, no one is going to look back at this race,” said Johnson. “There’s a long way to go.”
Archived article by Matt James