Every team looks for a late-season boost when it’s getting ready for its biggest competitions, and this weekend the men’s and women’s cross country teams will hope for just that. While the post-season is still two weeks away, this Saturday will mark the first time the teams have run at full strength in a big meet.
“It’s going to be a very competitive race,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. However, he noted that all of the team’s races have been competitive so far. With the exception of the season opener against Army at home, all have been big meets on 6k courses with lots of good teams.
There is something that sets this meet apart though.
“This is the last big race before Heps,” said Duesing.
Both teams look to put in a solid performance to gather momentum for the Heptagonal Championships.
For the women’s team, several runners have been out all season with various ailments. According to Duesing, juniors Kate Boyles and Alyssa Simon and sophomore Christy Planer will all make their first appearances in competition this year.
“They’ve all had to climb out of either or an injury,” said Duesing.
And, while it is not ideal for them to have their first race at this time of year, this meet will be a better place than any of the bigger ones after it.
“People have to have first meets, and in your first meet you’re usually a little rusty,” said Duesing.
It’s best to get that rust out of the way as early as possible, and without a question, the upperclassmen will help an otherwise young team.
“Having three people in there that are experienced is going to help the whole team,” Duesing noted.
The women’s team will put 19 runners on the starting line, offering an excellent chance for some of the middle-of-the-pack runners to run their way onto the 12-person team traveling to Heps.
Over the two weeks since the Paul Short Invitational, where the women placed seventh, Duesing has been pleased with the team’s running.
“I haven’t seen a whole lot that’s different, and really I’m happy that I haven’t, because people have been working hard all along,” the coach said.
Now the team just needs to take that effort and translate it into the results at a race.
“I don’t think what they’ve done in the races [so far] is an accurate representation of what they can do,” said Duesing about the team.
And this is the ladies’ last chance of the regular season. They run against the 26 teams in the collegiate race, including No. 9 Columbia, No. 10 Providence, No. 18 Penn State and No. 20 Colorado State, at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.
The men will face a similar looking field, with 21 teams, including No. 9 Colorado State, Penn State, and Penn.
“This is a real important meet to us,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson. “Up to this point we really haven’t had all our top guys running in the same meet.”
“At this meet,” he said, “I want to see the guys who are going to be significant players step up.”
Junior captain Emory Mort, classmate Oliver Tassinari and freshmen Rick Lader and Aaron Arlinghaus all sat out the Paul Short Invitational to get in an extra week of rest and working out.
“[Those] guys haven’t had had a race in three weeks, so they’re really ready to go,” said Johnson.
The only top runner sitting out for the Red may be senior captain Dan Hart. Hart suffered from an illness over the past few weeks, and while he showed signs of recovery earlier in the week, his status will not be decided until the start of the race.
Overall, the Johnson said he has been happy with the team’s work.
“I’ve been pleased with the way the guys have been progressing so far,” he said. “The freshmen continue to impress me. It wouldn’t surprise me if we had three frosh in the top five or six.”
With all that youth at the top of the team, the meet will be an important tune-up before Heps. Additionally, it will likely say a little bit about how far the team has to go.
“The future has never looked brighter for Cornell cross country,” said Johnson.
“This weekend is going to tell us whether the future starts this year, or if we’re really a year or two away,” he continued.
Only the races can tell.
“Hopefully the guys understand now that the results of the races are a little more significant,” said Johnson.
The farther the season moves along, the more important things get in college cross country.
“I’m looking for the guys to get out there, be ambitious and run as a team,” concluded Johnson.
He wants the team to run with a purpose. If they all do, and they all perform up to their ability, they might be ready to surprise some people.
The men’s race goes off at 11 a.m. It’s 8,000 meters and the last race before Heps. The races will tell.
Archived article by Matt James