It has been a season of drastic improvement for the men and one of vindication for the women, but the final analysis of Red cross country comes tomorrow. Both teams are sending twelve runners each to compete in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.,p> A year ago, the women harriers emerged from a season racked with illness and injury to take fifth place at the Heps. In order for the Red to garner its first league championship since 1998, coach Lou Duesing knows his athletes must overcome some very tough competition, including 19th-ranked Princeton and 28th-ranked Columbia.
“I like where we are in terms of our fitness and how we’ve raced,” he said. “I like what I see with the attitude and approach of people on the team. Most [outside] people are assuming its going to be a battle between Columbia and Princeton, and I’m fine with that if that’s what they want to think.”
The Red last appeared at Van Cortlandt a month ago in Iona’s Meet of Champions, claiming fourth place, ahead of fifth-place Harvard. Whereas the women faced a six kilometer course at Iona, the Heps course is a kilometer shorter but still features daunting back hills. Senior Kate Boyles placed second at Iona this year and 19th at the 2003 Heps. Duesing expects her to run the type of race she is capable of, but knows there is much more to winning a team championship.
“I really think that Kate is going to be an important part of a tough front-running group of probably five or six people,” he said. “Whoever finishes best in that group up front is going to help determine scores, but I really think it’s all going to get sorted out on how strong a team is in spots two through seven.”
It has been a rebuilding era for the men, who finished last in the Heps a year ago and haven’t brought home a team championship since 1993. Regardless of what transpires tomorrow, distance coach Robert Johnson is proud of the strides made by his team.
“In the sense of where we are from the beginning of the season, I don’t think we could really have asked for a whole lot more,” he said. “We’ve already got six guys this year running faster than our number one guy last year. So as a team we’ve improved an incredible amount. We’re kind of going into the Heps with nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
The field for the men is “crazy competitive,” according to Johnson. But he emphasized that worrying about the opposing runners is detrimental to race strategy.
“Individuals kind of have an idea about where they should finish in the Heps, and teams get in trouble when they worry about that,” he said. “What I’m looking for is for our guys to go out there and run as hard as they can, and run intelligently. If they all do that, I think they all should run personal bests on the course.”
Although Cornell is coming off a disappointing performance at the Pre-National Meet at Indiana State, the team has already had success on Van Cortlandt’s five-mile course this season. At Iona, the Red took second place, led by junior Bruce Hyde. Hyde has had some hamstring problems of late, but Johnson believes “that worry is behind us.”
Archived article by Dan Schiff
Sun Staff Writer