September 22, 2006

Men’s Team Sets Sights on National Meet

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Despite being overshadowed by bigger seasonal sports like football and soccer, the men’s cross country squad has taken its place among the premier teams on campus. After moving up in national rankings for three consecutive seasons, the starters for the Red face the biggest expectations a Cornell cross country team has had in years, both as a team and individually.

For senior captain Brad Baird, the biggest issue going into this season is his health. He was sick heading into Cornell’s first meet of the year against Army on Sept. 8, and eventually had to pull out due to the illness.

Last year, a healthy Baird led the Red as one of the top runners in the conference and finished just short of qualifying for nationals. Naturally, a goal for this season is to make it to the NCAAs in his final year, but Baird wants even more.

“I think we have a high chance of [qualifying for the national meet] as a team. … I want to try and battle for All-American honors,” he said.

Assistant coach Robert Johnson sees no reason why Baird cannot accomplish all of his goals.

“If he’s healthy, we’re fully confident in Brad. He has been running great in practice so far,” said Johnson.

Meanwhile, the Red’s top runner in its first meet was junior Sage Canaday. Canaday has drawn the admiration of the coaching staff and is recognized as the most consistent runner on the team.

Heading into tomorrow’s huge meet in Minnesota, the results of which will go a long way toward determining nationals qualification, the Red will trust Canaday to lead the way.

“We’ll look for him to set the pace for the first couple of miles,” Johnson said. “We want our other top runners to stay with him at the start because we know he’s so consistent.”

Canady’s success has not been a fluke, as he brings a deliberate strategy to each race.

“I run in the middle of the pack and then move up as the race progresses,” he said. “By the time I get two-thirds of the way through the race I try to increase my effort and make a long push to the finish.”

Another runner firmly in the Red’s top-3 is junior Jimmy Wyner. As a team, Wyner wants the Red to move up the standings to reach the top-30 in the nation this year. On a personal level, he wants to run under 25:00 at Van Cortland Park in New York City — the site of Heptagonal championships, NCAA Regionals, and IC4A championships each year — and make it to nationals.

Wyner’s main goals concern the biggest meets of the season because the moments when the stakes are highest are his favorite.

“Whether it’s cross country or track, I think I run my best in big meets when I’m under some pressure,” he said. “I usually try to stay relaxed in the beginning and use my leg speed toward the last bit of the race to catch guys.”

Wyner’s preparation for this year has given him even higher expectations.

“Living and training in altitude this summer is the best thing I could have done,” he said. “I can definitely feel the difference it has made. … I finally feel like a cross country runner [rather than a track runner].”

As for the rest of the Red’s top-7, the spots are still open to competition.

Johnson lists freshmen Charlie Hatch, Owen Kimple and Doug Gibbons, sophomores Zach Hine and Sam Luff, and juniors David Krause and Joe Walsh as options for the other positions.