As it has been for most of the season, youth was the order of the day for the Red this weekend at the Paul Short Invitational. The men’s and women’s teams both ran four underclassmen in the top seven, and in both cases two of them led the way.
Sophomore Mandy Knuckles was the ladies’ top runner, followed by classmate Emily McCabe and freshman Nyam Kagwima, and freshman Brad Baird claimed the men’s top spot; sophomore Ed Palermo ran second.
Men’s distance coach Robert Johnson planned the race as an opportunity for some of his less experienced runners to compete outside the shadow of the top runners.
“We held out conceivably what could be four of our top five,” said Johnson.
Junior captain Emory Mort, classmate Oliver Tassinari, and freshmen Rick Lader and Aaron Arlinghaus all sat out to get in some extra training and rest in anticipation of bigger meets to come.
“I was really looking for some individuals to step up and say, ‘I want to be a varsity contributor,'” said Johnson.
The coach said he was particularly happy with the performances of his top three — Baird, Palermo, and senior captain Dan Hart.
Baird finished 49th for the team, with Palermo and Hart close behind in the 59th and 66th slots.
“For Brad, that was a great race,” said Johnson.
The freshman, Johnson noted, made an excellent comeback after suffering the effects of a side stitch in the previous race at Iona.
Palermo had a much more positive showing at Iona last weekend, but his result was the same as Baird’s, improvement.
“With two strong performances back-to-back, I know he believes the can be consistent and be a contributor,” Johnson said.
Hart’s performance was another bright spot on the day.
“He was encouraged by the way he competed,” noted Johnson.
With the performances at Paul Short, all of the Red’s top runners have solid performances under their belt for the season. Now, it’s just a matter of putting it all together in time for Heps. Princeton finished second at the Paul Short, and Penn and Columbia were fourth and fifth, respectively, so the path to glory won’t be so easy for the Red, which finished 12th.
“It’s kind of hard to figure out where we would have been if we had run everybody,” noted Johnson.
There’s still a lot of ground to cross though, he noted.
“The meet shows that we have a long way to go,” said Johnson. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.
“The season is really going to come down to how much we improve over the next four weeks,” he concluded.
Although that’s not to say that Heps is the only meter of the season’s success. The growth of the team will also play into that equation, and in that respect, the Red is on the right track.
“I couldn’t be happier with how the younger guys are running,” said Johnson.
As far as the final results go, it’s much, much, too early to tell.
“The difference between having a really successful finish and a disappointing finish is a really fine line,” explained Johnson.
If one team runs particularly well one day and another few teams don’t, the results can swing dramatically. Right now, the team is an underdog, and that’s not such a bad spot to be, as Johnson noted.
In two weeks at the Penn State Invitational, the Red will get its first race as a full, experienced, team.
“In two weeks it won’t be about potential and the future,” said Johnson.
When it comes to the meets, it’s all about results. The race will be the most competitive the Red will face all year, and possibly the biggest, size-wise. It will be the team’s final tune-up for Heps.
“Our training is geared toward one thing — peaking when it counts,” said Johnson.
For the women, Paul Short offered a chance for the very young varsity squad to keep on learning.
“Individually, there were a couple of people who ran very well,” said head coach Lou Duesing.
He singled out McCabe and Kagwima as two of the best efforts.
Kagwima, said Duesing, has performed consistently well this year. This week just continued the arc of her improvement.
“I think she was a little bit stronger this weekend,” he said.
And McCabe was there with her, just one spot ahead of the freshman.
“That was probably her best performance of the year,” said Duesing about McCabe’s race.
McCabe finished four spots behind Knuckles, the team’s leader.
The coach also noted the performances of sophomore Angela Kudla and freshman Erin Linehan in the JV race, citing that area as a bright spot.
“The JV competed very well,” Duesing said.
Ultimately though, the coach said he thought the team’s results could be better. For the second week in a row, the team finished at the bottom of the heap with relation to its nearest competitors. The Red finished only 12 points out of fifth place.
“While people ran faster, I don’t think they raced up to their capacity,” said Duesing. “People were victimized by the pecking order.”
They see themselves on a certain place in the team, and they get worried if they’re running faster than a certain person. It’s a problem the team will need to solve if it wants to succeed later in the season.
That said, a bad performance at the beginning of October is no reason to worry.
“[It’s not] reason to panic,” said Duesing. “You have these races to learn and to test your fitness so you can move ahead as the season goes on.”
And there’s still quite a ways to go until the meets really matter, in November, and there’s that much time to improve.
Archived article by Matt James