The men’s cross country team is looking to rebound this weekend as it heads to State College, Pa., for the Penn State Invitational tomorrow.
Coming off a disappointing 18th-place finish at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minnesota two weeks ago, the Red is optimistic in this 19-squad meet. Without most of its top runners competing in the 2005 race, the Red still managed to place 22nd out of a field of 37 teams. With its team fully healthy and rested, expectations are high this time around.
“We’ve had really good practices the last couple of weeks,” said assistant coach Robert Johnson. “We’re looking forward to this race. As long as we run well, I feel we should win this meet.”
Senior captain Brad Baird, the Red’s top runner last year, agrees. Baird has been hobbled by several injuries throughout the early part of the season. He says he is now at the top of his game.
“[Leading up to] our last meet…after finally recovering from a bad sickness, I got major shin splint pain in my left leg which left me with a very low mileage and low workout week,” Baird said.
With the season rolling along, the Red has been conducting higher-intensity practices as fatigue becomes less of an issue. It is fortunate, that the most competitive meet, pre-nationals in Minnesota, is already behind them.
“We have a few weeks before pre-nationals and the conference championships, while some of our ECAC rivals don’t,” Johnson said. “I’m happy about that.”
Johnson said that his team is one of routine with more practice and mileage meaning better results. It is convenient, then, that Cornell has had two weeks to train approaching tomorrow’s invite. The Red is also preparing for the most critical juncture of its season — the Heptagonal championships — is at the end of the month.
“This is a very important weekend because it’s the last weekend before conference play starts,” Johnson said. “Our main threats are Penn State and Syracuse … but we have to keep the conference season [in mind].”
To that end, Cornell is hoping to solidify its starting 12-man rotation. The coaches will be watching intently to see which “bubble” runners will be most capable of helping the Red this conference season.
Johnson identified freshman Doug Gibbons, senior David Schenk, and sophomore Andy Miller, among others, as runners who can establish themselves in the lineup at Penn State.
The Red, however, does not aim to overlook its meet this weekend. Both coaches and players expressed a determination to run at their best this weekend.
“If all goes well and I feel like it should, I expect to run for the individual title this weekend, and our team should also win,” Baird said.