The cross country teams just keep on tuning up. Four weeks from today the men’s and women’s teams will compete for Ivy League supremacy in the Heptagonal Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City.
For now though, the focus remains squarely on putting in the work and getting in a good race or two before the postseason. This weekend the teams travel to Bethlehem, Penn., to compete in the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University.
“It’s an opportunity to gain some confidence on a fast course,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson.
Women’s head coach Lou Duesing concurred.
“It’s a great course,” he said. “It’s certainly the fairest course in the east. It’s a good spectator course and it’s a fun place to run.”
Lehigh’s course is wide, straight, relatively flat and completely grassy. That means it’s kind to the runners and just a little easier to race on.
“Typically we’ve done pretty well there,” Duesing said. “I hope that continues.”
The women’s team will field the same varsity squad it had last week.
“I don’t anticipate any new faces,” said Duesing. “The one difference is that last weekend we could run nine, and this weekend we can only run seven.”
Because of the size of the meet, each team only gets seven slots for runners. With 38 schools running at Paul Short, plus unattached runners, there will be more than 260 runners on the course. The attending teams will include No. 10 Georgetown, No. 13 Villanova, No. 17 Penn State and No. 22 Tennessee.
The meet offers another chance for a young women’s team to gain experience in a big race against quality competition on a relatively easy course.
Last weekend saw the team finish a disappointing seventh place at the Iona Meet of Champions in Van Cortlandt Park. Duesing stressed the positives of the finish though, noting the team’s solid effort and desire to learn from its mistakes.
“It’s another step in the process,” Duesing said about the Paul Short race. “I’m glad we have a race right away after last weekend.”
“They’re really kind of anxious to apply what they’ve learned,” he said about the runners.
There is time, too. With four weeks left in the regular season there’s still plenty of training to do and at least one other race to run.
“We’re still early in the season, so the amount of work we do remains pretty constant until we move into peaking season,” Duesing noted.
At Paul Short, Duesing said he expected the team to go out and stay after its competition.
“One of the things I’d really like to see is for people to keep passing,” said the coach. “Everyone out there matters. That was one of the things we didn’t do last week. As a group we could have done better.”
The women’s 6k goes off tomorrow at 10:45 a.m.
On the men’s side, Johnson will go with a slightly different game plan than normal.
“I’m going to hold the top three kids out of this meet,” he said.
Junior captain Emory Mort, classmate Oliver Tassinari and freshman Rick Lader will all sit the meet out to rest and train for another week with the aim of improving for later in the season.
Without the top runners, some of the middle competitors on the team will have a chance to score some points and get some extra experience against solid competition. Additionally, the guys on top will get a chance to rest up for the season’s bigger races.
“I think it will be good that we don’t have the top guys running. It will put some pressure on the 5-6 guys. They know they have to score,” said Johnson.
The course’s speed will likely make the race a good experience for those participating.
“It’s a really fast course,” said Johnson. “It’s a great opportunity to run fast.”
Coming off a sixth-place finish at Iona, the men’s team enters the Paul Short race with a solid team performance behind it, but with several individuals smarting from a tough race in hot, humid conditions last weekend.
“This is the perfect time to have back to back races,” said Johnson. “There’s a lot of guys who want to make up for last weekend.”
There will only be six runners in the varsity race, mostly younger runners who need more experience and older guys who need another race under their belt.
The coming week marks the beginning of the downhill slope of the season for the team. It’s time to get ready for the real races.
“Next week is when we’re really going to start doing the hard workouts,” said Johnson.
Heps is only four weeks away.
“We’re going to see the three other Ivy teams we haven’t seen yet,” noted Johnson about the competition at Paul Short.
This weekend puts both the men’s and the women’s team that much closer to the postseason.
“You want each race to be another piece of the mosaic that represents the season,” said Duesing.
The men’s 8k races at 10:00 a.m.
Archived article by Matt James