September 29, 2006

W. Cross Country Hits the Road

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This weekend, many Cornell students will be anxiously awaiting the hockey line announcement. However, there are many outstanding Cornell teams eager for victory this weekend, including the women’s cross country squad. The team is looking to continue its strong play tomorrow at the John “Paddy” Doyle Iona Meet of Champions, held at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City.

The Red looks to remain hot after opening its season with two straight victories. However, head coach Lou Duesing stressed the unlikelihood of a third straight win.

“We are certainly not favored going into this meet at Iona; there are three or four teams considered by the people voting around the nation that should be ahead of us,” Duesing said. “We are going to be very competitive, but I don’t go in thinking or encourage the team to go and win this. Each and every person needs to run the best race that they can run.”

After an opening-week victory over Army, the Red took first place last week at the Buffalo Stampede Invitational. Senior Toni-Lynn Salucci finished with a time of 18:30.70 to win the race, narrowly beating classmate Nyam Kagwima. Senior Erin Linehan and sophomore Katie Roll also finished in the top-5. Kagwima credited her training for her early success.

[img_assist|nid=18656|title=Running in packs|desc=Members of the women’s cross country team run during last year’s season-opening victory over Army on Sept. 9, 2005, at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Course’s Moakley Course.|link=popup|align=left|width=72|height=100]
“The summer training has paid off and is just an indication of what is yet to come,” Kagwina said. “We have really gotten off to a good start but what really matters is what we do as the season progresses.”

While Salucci and Kagwima have certainly stood out, Duesing indicated the importance of a team effort.

“My hope certainly is that they would continue to do what they have been doing,” Duesing said. “I think that if we address a gap between them and the next five or six runners, we will definitely be a much stronger team.”

The Red has a lot of experience at Van Cordlandt Park, winning the Iona Meet of Champions last year when the team placed seven different runners in the top-20. Cornell beat out host Iona, despite the Gaels’ placing two runners in the top-10. Even after last year’s victory, obtaining more experience at Van Cordlandt Park is essential for the Red, who will have to run there three more times this season.

“I try to make sure that we get a chance to run on that course because the ECAC championships, the Heptagonal championships and the [NCAA] Regional championships are all run at Van Cordlandt Park,” Duesing said. “Even when you have run there [in] past years, it is still important to run there again.”

Cornell will have to outlast 22 other teams hungry for a victory, especially host Iona, who has enjoyed a strong start to the 2006 season, finishing first in the Stony Brook Seawolves Invitational and second in the Princeton Invitational. The Gaels have several quality runners, including sophomore McKayla Plank and senior Salome Kosegei, who placed first in the Princeton Invitational. The Red knows Iona is a dangerous team that is no doubt eager to avenge last year’s second-place finish.

“There are definitely going to be some good teams there,” Kagwima said. “You need people faster than you that can push you. we really want to be in those situations and see how we do as a team.”