Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams will be competing in the biggest meet of the season this weekend — the Heptagonal championships at Van Cortland Park in Bronx, N.Y. Both squads aim to build off their sixth-place finishes last season.
[img_assist|nid=19263|title=Ready to race|desc=The men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete for Heptagonal championships this weekend. (Robert Bonow / Sun Photo Editor)|link=popup|align=left|width=73|height=100]
The men will start off first today with high expectations coming off a second-place performance at the Penn State Invitational earlier this month. The Red has been looking forward to this meet all season.
“We’re all very excited,” said assistant coach Rob Johnson. “We think we can run a good race if we don’t worry about the other teams too much.”
Those other teams will be the rest of the Ivy League, making up a field that Johnson called “the deepest cross country conference in the nation.” Still, the Red feels it can compete with any team as long as it sticks to its strategy.
“[Senior captain] Brad Baird is really the key,” Johnson said. “He’s struggled this year, but we need to be one of our top-3 runners. He likes this course and has always run well at the Heps, so I think he can rise to the occasion.”
The other two runners at the top of the pack for the Red will be juniors Jimmy Wyner and Sage Canaday, who have led Cornell in each race this year. The Red will look to Wyner and Canaday to start off quickly and compete with the conference’s elite, while allowing the other 12 runners to set their own pace.
“We want to try to run conservatively,” said Johnson. “I want most of our guys to run at an even pace for the first half of the meet. Hopefully, they can come up from behind later on.”
The women’s squad, meanwhile, already has an impressive result at Van Cortland this season — a third-place finish at the Iona Meet of Champions. The Red will simply hope to keep running like it has all season and stay in the moment.
“Our strategy is to let everyone run at the pace they’ve been going at in meets and practices all year,” said head coach Lou Deusing.
“Runners often get caught up in the emotion at Heps. I’m stressing that this is not a different race from any other.”
The field for the women’s meet is as tight as it has been in years. While the early favorite to win is Princeton, coaches emphasized that scores could be extremely tight.
That could spell pivotal roles for runners beyond the 1-2 senior tandem of Nyam Kagwima and Toni-Lynn Salucci. One such player is another senior, Erin Linehan.
“She has really run at a high level this year,” Deusing said. “Seniors often pick up their level of play in their last year … she has still been surprising.”
In contrast to the men’s team, the women have plenty of experience in their lineup. With seniors making up five of the top-7 runners, the Red expects to run a memorable race in what could be several team members’ last.