The last time the men’s and women’s cross country teams had a home meet was Sept. 9, 2005. It’s been a long road since then – the teams have traveled to the Bronx, Bethlehem, Penn., and most recently, the men journeyed to Fayetteville, Ark., and the women set off for Penn State.
It’s no surprise that after five weeks of traveling, the teams are happy to be back home.
“When you’re at home and you’re sleeping in your own bed and, again, you’re in your own routine, it’s a lot easier,” women’s head coach Lou Duesing said. “When you’re traveling on a bus, people get tight – certainly it takes a toll.”
“Traveling to Arkansas [last weekend], I feel like I’ve been gone every weekend,” senior men’s captain Bruce Hyde said. “It’s nice to be back.”
And not a moment too soon. Both teams are preparing for the pinnacles of their seasons – the Heptagonal championships – held in Van Cortlandt in New York City on Oct. 28. Despite mentioning the physical and mental benefits of rest, both Duesing and Hyde downplayed the effect that being home has on a cross country runner’s performance.
“We’ll do some things differently,” Duesing said. “We will stay in the same routine in terms of practice and what have you, because there’s a certain rhythm people get into and you want to stay in that rhythm.”
Duesing also explained that the amount people work out has to be balanced to avoid injury or fatigue, while still allowing them to make strides of improvement.
“You’re doing things a little bit quicker than you would have earlier in the season, but really making sure people are rested and recovered so they’re looking good,” he said. “Pretty much the bulk of the work has been done, but now it’s a matter of you adjust and lessen the overall volume of work people are doing.”
“We’re pretty fresh, but it’s nice to have that week off,” Hyde said. “This week is going to be the last week we have before Heps to get in some real hard workouts. Once you’ve done those, then that’s pretty much all you can do.”
The men’s team will therefore be faced with the dilemma of fatigue or fitness in the coming days. The squad is looking to get back on track after an average performance at the Chili Pepper Invitational, which included many of the nation’s top collegiate runners. Distance coach Robert Johnson said after the meet that he believed the squad needed to step up its performances to succeed. He called out junior Brad Baird, classmate Ricky Lader and sophomore Jimmy Wyner in particular, and Hyde agreed.
“This week as a whole was kind of unremarkable for the team,” Hyde said. “We didn’t have anyone have a truly breakout performance. But right now, we’re a good team if we just run the way we’ve been running. The one thing we need to make sure is that Brad runs well – I think we just need to stay relaxed and focused.”
The women, on the other hand, have been steadily improving, thanks in large part to a rookie renaissance. Freshmen Aeriel Emig, Marie Parks and Danielle Schaub have been among Cornell’s top-5 performers throughout the season, and have proven they can handle the pressures and new challenges of collegiate running.
Typically, both the men’s squad and women’s squad like to go into the meets with momentum and improvement at their heels. Although both are improving at different speeds, they know history is on their side.
“We’ve had some success on the track and what not, but I think that for us to even talk about winning the Heps, for us, it’s a not a big deal,” Hyde said. “I think a good goal for us would be to finish in the top-3 and go on to Regionals. But obviously, going into any meet, we want to win.”
For both the men and women, the runners who know they are going to Heps will not race in Friday’s John Reif Memorial Run, held in Ithaca. Only those whose are fighting for the last spots for the trip to Heps will take part in the event, with everyone else having regular workouts.
Between workouts and meets, the Red still have much to do to prepare for the impending Heptagonal championships. Luckily for them, they’ll be able to do it at home.
Archived article by Josh Perlin
Sun Staff Writer