On Saturday at Van Courtlandt Park the men’s and women’s cross country teams were greeted with some of the ugliest running weather possible. With a temperature in the 80s, 98-percent humidity, and a 20-mile an hour headwind, the conditions posed a significant challenge for the teams running in the Iona Meet of Champions.
But as all coaches say, the weather was the same for everyone there. In the end, the temperature worked against the relative inexperience of both Cornell’s squads.
When the points were tallied up, the men’s team placed sixth out of 19 teams, and the women were seventh of 18.
“I think that if you look at the meet, there are certainly some positives to take away from it,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson.
Junior Oliver Tassinari rebounded from a bad race against Army to lead the team with a 25th-place finish.
“He ran a very good race,” said Johnson.
Freshman Rick Lader, sophomore Ed Palermo, and juniors Vasanth Coorg and Emory Mort rounded out the top five for the Red.
In addition to Tassinari, Johnson singled out Lader, Palmero and Coorg as having particularly good races.
“Ricky Lader ran another great race, once again,” said the coach. “Vasanth Coorg ran another solid race, and for Ed Palermo, that was his best collegiate cross country result.”
Several runners suffered the effects of the heat, with slow finishes after fast starts, but overall things went fairly well, according to Johnson
“I was relatively pleased with the results of the meet,” he said.
The biggest positives were the emergence of Tassinari and Palmero as significant contributors on the team. They showed that they can be the sorts of runners the men need for success in the Heptagonal conference in November.
“We found another couple pieces of the puzzle,” said Johnson.
Now, it’s only a matter of putting them together.
For the Red to do well at the Heps meet, it needs all of its runners working together and running their best.
“We need to have them all rise to the occasion and have them firing on all cylinders,” said Johnson.
After Iona, there are five weeks and two more big races for the men in the regular season. After that, the meets really count.
“We’re making a transition from the first half of the season to the second half of the season,” Johnson noted.
How the team does will largely be based on the advances they can make in the second half.
“What the first two meets of the season have shown is that we have the guys that can contribute,” the coach concluded.
Now it’s just a matter of getting them together.
On the women’s side, the results were a mixed bag. While several runners showed considerable improvement over last season, the heat contributed to the disappointing finish of several less experienced runners.
“I think that my gut impression is that I was disappointed with our finish, because I think we’re a better team than that,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing.
The coach noted, however, that the poor finish was not due to any lack of effort by the runners. They were definitely tired at the finish, drained.
“The quality of effort was very high across the board,” said Duesing.
The Red’s top five consisted of sophomore Mandy Knuckles, junior Sarah Coseo, freshmen Nyam Kagwima and Megs DiDario, and senior Natalie Gingerich. Knuckles led the way with a 17th-place finish.
It was the first big invitational and the first 6000-meter race for the freshmen. Those factors, combined with the weather, added up to a tough race for the team’s rookies.
“Because of that inexperience, and because of wanting to do well, people were tight,” explained Duesing. “They probably worked too hard.”
Many of the runners never relaxed quite enough to have a good race, he concluded. A few positives did emerge, though.
“There were several people who, despite the adverse conditions, ran very good races,” said Duesing.
He pointed to Knuckles, who dropped 22 seconds from her previous best at Van Courtlandt Park, and Coseo as both running well.
“[Sarah] was almost a minute faster than she was last year,” noted Duesing, “and this was her first race [of the season].”
Considering the weather, Coseo’s and Knuckles’s successes were very promising. The majority of the experienced runners from other teams ran times slower than their previous bests at Van Courtlandt Park.
“To have gone in under those circumstances and run faster speaks very highly of [the work] they’ve done,” said Duesing.
Duesing is confident that the team’s conditioning will keep the team from sliding too far.
“People have worked hard,” he said, “and that work is going to pay off with faster times overall.”
The important part will be for the runners to correct their mistakes in future races.
“You want it to be a learning experience, and you want them to apply that learning,” said Duesing.
The runners will get their chance soon enough. Both the men and women run at the Paul Short Invitational, in Bethlehem, Penn., this coming weekend. But like Iona, it’s just one more step in the road.
“We’ve got five weeks to keep improving and keep moving forward,” Johnson concluded.
And if both of the teams can do that, they should be just fine at Heps.
Archived article by Matt James