September 26, 2003

Harriers Will Face Stiff Competition at Iona Meet

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It’s time to get down to business, to see how things will turn out this season. In the cross country teams’ first weekend of action two weeks ago against Army, the teams ran against a single opponent on their home course, and while the Cadets offered the first real competition either of the teams saw, they didn’t give the Red much of a benchmark.

“It’s not a true test of where we are,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson.

After all, the teams have no idea of whether Army is the best team in the country, or the worst, or somewhere in between.

At the Iona Meet of Champions tomorrow in Van Cortlandt Park, the Cornell teams will get a better picture of where they are.

“When you get in a bigger meet against a lot of teams, the results mean something,” noted Johnson.

Both the men’s and women’s teams welcome the challenge.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing.

The meet offers a chance to see how far his team has come, Duesing noted, since the last meet and since the past season.

Johnson agreed.

“I’m really looking forward to the meet, and I’m sure the guys are too,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ll really find out where we are.”

“This coming race, there are going to be 21 teams,” said Duesing, “and there are going to be a lot more people running.”

The women’s race will include No. 8 Villanova, along with other national powers like Auburn and Pittsburgh. Additionally, six of the eight Heps schools will be represented there.

“It will be nice to measure ourselves against those teams,” said Duesing about Villanova, Auburn, and Pittsburgh.

The meet, Duesing explained, does not mean a whole lot to the final results in the Heptagonal conference.

“I’m not too worried about the Heps schools,” he said, noting that where the Red stacks up now matters very little.

That’s not to say that the presence of the Ivies means little to the meet, though.

“It really contributes to the quality of the meet,” Duesing concluded. “It makes for some excellent competition.”

Seniors Jessica Parrott and Kinsy Miller and junior Sarah Coseo will all return this to action this weekend for the Red, adding to an already tough varsity squad. The three all sat out against Army.

“We’re going to be a stronger team than we were two weeks ago,” said Duesing.

The Red will benefit from the addition of the upperclassmen and two more weeks of training, he noted.

“It takes a while for what you’re doing to take effect,” explained Duesing about the training. “It’s a cumulative effect. The summer is so important; it’s critical. But now it’s the summer plus.”

With the Iona meet, the team looks to put in the best possible effort and show some improvement from previous weeks. If it accomplishes those two things, the standings should take care of themselves.

“What you want from each meet is to be a step forward,” said Duesing. “You [typically] see some real growth and improvement in the second meet.”

At this point in the season, the important part is not the finish order.

“It’s still very early,” Duesing noted, and there are a lot of things that still have to happen.”

In the great scheme of things, Iona is just one more step in the journey.

“The last thing you want to do is to look at this meet as a determinant,” concluded Duesing.

An individual race only indicates where a runner is on that particular day, and so far, the women’s team is looking good.

“I really could not be more pleased with the attitude [the runners] are coming to practice with, and the work that they’re putting in while they’re there,” said Duesing.

Men’s Harriers

On the men’s side, Johnson is equally impressed with his team’s work.

“The last two weeks of training have gone really well for us,” said Johnson. “All indications are, we’re moving in the right direction.”

Much like the women, the race offers the men an opportunity to run against some nationally-ranked competition. Five of the eight Heps schools will be in attendance, including top competitors Brown, Dartmouth, and Princeton. Additionally, the home team, No. 8 Iona will be in competition.

“Next year, we should be able to compete with teams like Iona,” said Johnson. This year, he said, “The most competition is really going to come from the Heps schools.”

Right now, noted Johnson, the competition between the schools is pretty wide open. Iona, though, will offer a sort of first picture of the competition in the conference.

“On Monday, we’ll really have a better idea of where we are,” said Johnson.

The meet will give an idea of how far the team has come in the past few weeks.

“I thought some of the freshmen ran very well, and I was really pleased with how the top guys ran,” said Johnson.

The meet will be an opportunity for some of the runners on the team to step up, so the team can see how it stacks up.

Johnson said the team’s runners will employ a few different strategies in the race.

“The best way to run a race is to run very even overall,” said Johnson.

But at the same time, he noted, in a big race it’s always bad to get buried in the back of the pack.

Johnson said he wanted the freshmen, running in their first big college meet, to be a little cautious, to not get caught up in the race. The top runners, he said, would have a little more freedom.

“It’s an early season meet,” he said, “so it should be used as a learning experience.”

In the end, much like the women, Iona is just one more step for the men.

“It’s nothing to get too excited about,” said Johnson. “Sometimes people put too much emphasis on the early season meets.”

What really matters is what happens in November.

Archived article by Matt James