“We enter now the championship part of the season,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing.
This coming Friday the cross country teams will travel to their first postseason race when they compete at the Heptagonal Championships at Van Courtlandt Park in New York City. Before that though the Red had to take care of some business.
On Friday the men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the John Reif Memorial Run on the Moakley Cross Country Course. The meet served mainly as a tune-up and qualifying run for Heps. The coaches used the race to round out their twelve person Heps rosters. Both teams’ top 11 runners did not participate in the competition.
“I thought it went real well,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson. “It was really good to see a freshman win and join the Heps squad.”
Freshmen David Shenk and Matt Strasburg were the top two finishers for the men’s team. Sophomores Zach Cater-Cyker, Bryan Jarret, and Evan Walther rounded out the top five for the team.
“It was only fitting that freshmen went one-two,” said Johnson.
So far, the team’s defining mark has been its youth. The men’s Heps squad includes five freshman out of 12 runners. Johnson noted that the Reif offered an opportunity for some of the lesser-known members of the team to shine.
“It was good that he got some recognition,” said Johnson about Shenk.
Shenk led the race wire to wire, taking the lead at the start and never relinquishing it.
Johnson noted Jarret for his outstanding performance in the race. After a starting his race conservatively, Jarret moved up and made a move on Shenk. And while Shenk kept the lead, Johnson was impressed with Jarret’s effort. A pulled abdominal muscle kept him from finishing higher. Jarret’s performance is even more impressive because earlier in the season he missed practice time to have his appendix removed.
“Brian really went after it,” said Johnson. “He’s a kid that’s really been motivated.”
Additionally, Johnson pointed to Strasberg, Ross McGowan, and senior Jeff Massa as all having excellent races.
“There are a bunch of guys who ran significantly faster than they did earlier in the year,” noted Johnson. “This weekend showed we’re improving and we’re moving in the right direction.”
In the coming week the Red will make its final preparations for one its biggest meets of the year, Heps.
“Between now and Heps it’s all about fine-tuning and sharpening up,” said Johnson.
The team’s major work for the season is largely done. Now it’s all about tapering down and preparing for the championship races.
“The most important thing this week is the guys taking care of the non-running related stuff,” noted Johnson. “The key [to the meet] is to be totally rested, totally healthy.”
On the women’s side Duesing was pleased with his runners.
“I don’t think there were any real surprises,” said Duesing. “For people to run well really wasn’t a surprise.”
The team continued to produce at the same high level it has all season and it showed in the results, if not always the times.
“The conditions were tough because the course was extremely soft,” noted Duesing.
But despite that fact, several runners ran faster times than they did earlier in the year on the same course.
“To me, that means they’re running a lot faster,” said Duesing. “I thought a lot of people ran well given the conditions.”
Senior Kinsey Miller took the top spot for the ladies.
“I thought Kinsey ran a great race,” said Duesing.
The coach also noted freshmen Erin Linehan and Robin Ellerbrock and senior Jessica Parrott for their outstanding performances. And the results should be reflected in the postseason rosters.
“It’s going to help us finalize the group that’s going to compete in the championship season,” noted Duesing about the Reif.
And once the teams are complete, then the races are about all that’s left. Much like the men, the women are ready and set for Heps.
“The hard work has been done at this point in the season,” said Duesing. “[Now] it’s sharpening yourself, making sure you’re rested.”
The Ivy teams are all close enough that the results at Heps will likely come down to how each team performs on race day.
“In all likelihood very few points are going to separate the teams,” concluded Duesing.
So, the Heptagonal Championship will come down to the race.
“The guys are really excited about Friday, to get out there and see where they are,” said Johnson about his team.
“I’ve been happy with how we’ve continued to grow,” said Duesing about the relatively young women’s team.
And that growth will be put the test this weekend at Van Courtlandt for both teams. Can youth triumph, or will the teams have to wait until next year?
The races will tell.
Archived article by Matt James