Few things are sweeter than finishing at the top of your game. It’s always great to save the best performances for last, so they can be the ones you remember in the off season, so next season you’ll be all the more willing to work harder and attack the task before you with more dedication.
On Saturday in the IC4A and ECAC Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, the men’s and women’s cross country teams accomplished that notable feat: They finished their seasons at the top of their games.
“I was very pleased with the way the meet went on Friday,” said men’s distance coach Robert Johnson.
The men’s team ran its way to a sixth place finish even without the contributions of junior captain Emory Mort, classmate Oliver Tassinari, and sophomore Ed Palermo, and the women’s team rode the strength of junior Kate Boyles’s first-place performance and freshman Nyam Kagwima’s third place effort to earn a second-place finish.
“I thought that probably as a team this was the best race we ran,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing.
The team used its depth, finishing all five runners in a one-minute span between Boyles’s 17:57 and fifth finisher Mandy Knuckles’s 27th place slot.
With the race the ladies ended their season with a flourish, picking a good time for their best finish and nearly replicating last year’s first place finish.
Boyles led the way for the team, out-running her nearest competition by a full 10 seconds and setting the Red up for success, and earning the praise of her coach.
“That’s our second ever ECAC Champion,” said Duesing, noting the gravity of the accomplishment.
Right behind Boyles was Kagwima, who capped off a stellar freshman season with perhaps her best collegiate performance yet.
“I thought Nyam, finishing third, ran a tremendous race,” noted Duesing.
Behind Kagwima came sophomore Emily McCabe in 10th place, then senior captain Christine Eckstaedt in 20th, followed by Knuckles, giving Cornell a total of 58 points.
Yale won the race with a score of 40, placing four in the top ten.
Duesing also noted great races by Eckstaedt and McCabe.
Not to be overlooked, junior Alyssa Simon started the day off right for the Red with her performance in the JV race.
“What kind-of gets lost is that we won the JV race individually,” said Duesing.
Simon came away with the victory for the Red, the first of the Red’s three individual titles for the day in the four races from the men’s and women’s teams combined.
Senior captain Dan Hart led the way for the men, running a Van Cortlandt Park personal best 25:45 and completing a return from a disappointing mid-season with a 15th place finish.
“Dan ran an absolutely fantastic race,” said Johnson. “He ran 25:45 and his best time [at Van Cortlandt Park] had been over 26:00 minutes.”
Hart and the rest of the men’s team did their best with the positive conditions on the course, including a tailwind and relatively cool, dry conditions, and posted their best effort on the season.
“I told the guys coming in, it was more of an individual opportunity to get personal best times down,” said Johnson. “The guys took advantage of the good conditions and ran well.”
Freshman stand-out Ricky Lader was the team’s second man with a 24th-place finish to join Hart as the Red’s representatives on the All-East team. Johnson was extremely happy with Lader’s performance.
“It was the perfect way for him to end an amazingly strong freshman season,” said the coach. “To get All-East as a freshmen is very impressive.”
Lader was the second freshman finisher at the meet, and the top rookie from the Ivy League. Johnson noted it as a sign of things to come.
“He sort-of proved himself,” said Johnson, “that he can not only be consistent, but he can really run in that upper echelon.”
Sophomore Bryan Jarrett opened up the day for the Red in the best possible fashion by winning the junior varsity race. With his time of 26:35, a 35-second personal record, he would have placed fourth on the team.
“I think that helped the guy’s confidence,” said Johnson about the varsity runners seeing Jarrett’s performance.
The IC4A race was a fitting end to the season in Johnson’s mind, because it showed the team where it’s going.
“We’ve been progressing,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, we’ve been doing what we need to do.”
“On Saturday, the guys got to see how far we really have come,” Johnson continued.
Six of the ten men in the race ran their personal best times.
“That was certainly good for the future,” said Johnson.
“The guys realize we’re doing the right things and we’re progressing,” he concluded.
And that will be instrumental in the team’s success next season, when the Red will return four of its top five with one more year of experience, and in the future beyond that too.
“I think we left the meet in Saturday with the best feeling we’ve had all season,” said Johnson.
A good way to begin the off-season, for sure, ready for the future in Cornell cross country.
Archived article by Matt James