Occasionally, races just don’t turn out the way you want them to. That fact of running can be especially frustrating in cross country, where it takes five good races for a good meet. Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams faced that problem over the weekend. Mixed individual results led to disappointing finishes. The women’s team finished seventh in a field of 19, and the men finished seventh out of 20.
“In terms of results, I wasn’t very happy,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson. “I think that not everyone ran well.”
“All you’re looking for is for everyone to fire on all cylinders, and that didn’t happen,” Johnson continued.
The performance was not all doom and gloom though. Several runners produced solid races. Once again, youth led the way for the men as freshmen Ricky Lader, Aaron Arlinghaus and Stephen Bakke placed first, third and seventh for the team.
“Ricky Lader really ran great,” said Johnson. “Aaron Arlinghaus ran great as well. I’d be shocked if he’s out of the top five for the rest of his Cornell career.”
Johnson also pointed to excellent races by junior Forrest Dillaway and senior Aldo Gonzalez, who ran fourth and fifth, respectively.
Absent from the race were team captains Dan Hart and Emory Mort. Hart sat out from the race with an illness and Johnson pulled Mort part-way through the race.
“He pushes a little too hard,” said Johnson about Mort.
Mort’s problem was similar to the rest of the team’s. He went out a little too hard and paid the consequences later in the race.
“The guys wanted to try and go out a little harder, and that’s usually not the way we run,” said Johnson. “You’ve got to be smart about things.”
Typically the team tries to run an evenly paced race, holding back a little at the beginning so it can run stronger at the end. At Penn State it tried a slightly different strategy and suffered for it. At the same time though, Johnson said he couldn’t really blame his runners.
“You can’t really fault the guys for being overly ambitious,” he said.
This sort of mistake happens with a younger team, Johnson noted, and overall, the team will be stronger for it. Now it knows why not to go out so fast.
“It’s good that we learned that now, this weekend,” said Johnson.
With the most important meet of the season, the Heptagonal Championships, two weeks away, the Red is looking for its runners to step up.
“We were hoping to have all of our top seven run pretty well,” Johnson said. “We didn’t quite get that, but at the same time the guys who didn’t run well know why they didn’t.”
In two weeks, the runners will attack things a little differently.
“At the Heps we’re going to run our own race,” said Johnson. “If we’re going to go down, we’re going to do it our way.”
While it is unlikely the Red will dominate the conference this year, it has a solid chance for success.
“We’ve got six or seven guys who are really capable of running good races in a couple weeks,” said Johnson.
And if everything goes right, who knows what might happen.
Women’s Cross Country
On the women’s side, head coach Lou Duesing’s feelings about his team’s performance resembled Johnson’s.
“I wasn’t happy with the team results, because I still don’t think they represent the way this team can run,” said Duesing. “But I was happier with the efforts and the way a lot of people race,” he noted.
“The combined score, I wasn’t happy with,” concluded the coach. “We’re close to doing a lot better.”
The Red finished just one point behind 6th place Penn. Cornell totaled 233 points to the Quaker’s 232. The Red’s average time was even lower than Penn’s. Cornell finished with an average time of 22:15 while Penn’s was 22:17.
Several individuals, Duesing noted, ran their way to excellent finishes. Junior Kate Boyles and sophomore Christy Planer both returned to action for their first races of the season and placed in the top five, running third and fifth for the team, respectively.
“Given that it was their first race,” said Duesing, “I thought they acquitted themselves very well.”
Duesing also noted the performance of senior captain Christine Eckstaedt.
“Christine had a tremendous race, clearly her best all season,” noted the coach.
Sophomore Mandy Knuckles, the Red’s top finisher, Freshman Nyam Kagwima, sophomore Angela Kudla and junior Alyssa Simon all earned nods from Duesing for their performances, too.
Like the men though, the ladies will need more than a few individual performances to succeed at Heps. The team will need to be as competitive as it possibly can for every spot in the race.
“You can’t be losing by a second or a tenth of a second,” said Duesing.
The team needs to get every place it can, and if that happens, the team will realize its potential.
“They’ve learned their lesson at the important part of the season,” said Johnson about his team.
Now it is all about how well the teams can put that lesson to use.
Archived article by Matt James