Coming into Friday’s meet against Army, the cross country coaches warned of a brutally hilly and difficult course on Army’s home turf in West Point, N.Y. — something each Cornell team apparently took heed of. Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams started their seasons with convincing victories against the Cadets, with the men winning by a score of 39-21, and the women cruising to a 50-15 victory.
The men’s team faced questions coming into the meet with three of its top-7 runners sick or injured. For the Red’s captain and top runner last year, senior Brad Baird, it was his illness that forced him to stop running midway through the meet. Despite the team’s misfortunes, junior Sage Canaday broke away from the pack by the third hilly climb, leading the Red to victory. Canaday’s form — a comfortable first place at 27:18.2 — was particularly impressive given that he wasn’t on campus last spring.
Prior to the season, a big concern for Red coach Robert Johnson was the team’s firepower at the No. 1 to No. 3 spots, an issue that has been put to rest temporarily. Even without Baird, the Red brought in the top-2 finishers in the race: Canaday and junior Jimmy Wyner. Wyner finished strong with a time of 27:23.4, shaving off considerable seconds down the stretch.
“We did well considering that the slope on the course doesn’t suit a lot of our runners,” said Johnson. “Sage ran especially well.”
[img_assist|nid=18186|title=Runners high|desc=Senior Nyam Kagwima (pictured) won the Army dual for the second consecutive season.|link=popup|align=left|width=67|height=100]
Other Red players found at the front of the pack were freshman Charlie Hatch, junior David Krause, and sophomores Sam Luff and Zac Hine. Cadets Doug Pelletier and John Mickowski placed third and fourth, respectively, giving Army a presence in the 8K race.
Johnson said his team’s showing provided both positives and negatives.
“We’re happy we got the win, but it was by no means perfect,” he said. “I look forward to getting better as [the season] goes along. … We’re going to be up against stiffer competition.”
The women had an easier time winning at Army, defeating the Cadets for a ninth consecutive year. Army was first to strike, however, using the course to their advantage in taking an early lead. Despite the success of the Cadet runners through the early going of the 5K race, several Red runners then surged to the forefront and never looked back. The Red was not threatened by the Cadets for the rest of the race, with Cornell runners making up the top-7 runners in a convincing victory.
Senior Nyam Kagwima followed her 2005 first-place West Point performance with an equally impressive first-place finish this year, posting a mark of 18:44.3. Other Red seniors were not far behind: Toni-Lynn Salucci, Erin Linehan, and captain Robyn Ellerbrock all finished within a minute of the leading mark.
The Red showed talent and depth across the spectrum as a slew of younger runners placed in the top-10. Freshman Stephanie Pancoast proved to be a significant addition to this year’s team, finishing in fifth place with a time of 19:34.9.