Apparently, the men’s and women’s cross country teams know how to perform under pressure. Both squads competed in the Heptagonal championships in Van Cortlandt Park in New York City this weekend, with the women earning a third-place finish and the men taking sixth as 21 of Cornell’s 23 runners set personal records.
No. 22 Princeton claimed the women’s championship with 42 points, while No. 32 Columbia squad earned runner-up status with a total of 64 points. For the men, No. 32 Princeton scored 50 points to take home the team title, while No. 36 Columbia saw its men match its women’s performance, taking second place with 63 points.
[img_assist|nid=19314|title=Fast times|desc=Freshman Kerri Lyons, pictured above at the Reif Memorial Run on Oct. 20., finished in 46th place at the Heptagonal championships this past Friday, with a time of 18:45.8. (Robert Bonow / Sun Photo Editor)|link=popup|align=right|width=100|height=89]
The Cornell women scored 68 points and set a new school record for the average times of the five scoring runners — lowering a mark set in 1992 — while the men finished with 122 points and a performance that also broke a 36-year-old school record for the average times of the Red’s five scoring runners.
The women’s team saw senior Toni-Lynn Salucci set a school record at Van Cortlandt Park with her time of 17:14.9 and her second-place overall finish, a performance that trailed only All-American Lindsay Donaldson of Yale. Salucci’s time was also the 10th-fastest time in Heps history and a new personal best by 77 seconds. Coming in right behind Salucci was senior Nyam Kagwima with a time of 17:31.5 — the fourth-best in Cornell history — and a third-place overall finish. Senior captain Robyn Ellerbrock was next to cross the line for the Red, finishing in 10th place with a time of 17:55.4. Kagwima and Ellerbrock also set new personal standards, improving upon their best performances by 24 and 56 seconds, respectively. Coming close to the end of their cross country careers, these seniors have been the backbone of the women’s team this season.
“I was very proud of the way they represented themselves and the school,” said women’s head coach Lou Duesing. “As a coach, I cannot be happier with their effort.”
The Red’s scoring was rounded out by two sophomores who turned in career-best races. Aerial Emig was 27th overall with a time of 18:21.8, while Katie Roll was close behind in a time of 18:22.2 for a 28th-place showing. Emig and Roll rounded out a top-5 for Cornell that became the first group in school history to average under 18:00 at the championship meet.
As its season comes to an end, the women’s team has gained momentum and boosted its hopes for qualifying for the NCAA championships. Coming into Heps, the women believed that they could finish in the top-5 and exceeded those expectations with their third-place finish.
“No one can expect someone to do better than their personal record,” Duesing said. “We had 11 of our 12 runners do that.”
While the women were led by their senior leadership, the men showcased the depth of its lineup across years. Junior Jimmy Wyner led the Harriers to a fifth-place team finish with his time of 24:32.0 — good for second place overall at Heps. Despite being tripped in the first mile of the race, Wyner was able to recover, taking the lead after cresting Cemetary Hill, and holding off a late challenge from Princeton’s David Nightingale to capture second place. Wyner’s time was also a 72-second improvement over his previous personal best.
“I went into the race thinking I could get into the top-5,” Wyner said. “I never really thought that I could finish second and come that close to winning.”
Sophomore Sage Canaday followed Wyner for the Red with his 12th-place finish and time of 25:04.1, and both Canaday and Wyner earned All-Ivy honors. Classmate Zach Hine was next for the Red, finishing in personal best of 25:19.1 and taking 24th place overall. Freshman Charlie Hatch and junior David Krause were the fourth and fifth runners for the Red, finishing 39th and 45th, respectively, overall. Hatch, who crossed the line in 25:35.0, was fourth among all freshmen in the field, and Krause finished the race with a time of 25:41.6.
“I was so happy with the way we ran,” said assistant men’s coach Robert Johnson. “I think if you’d told me before the race that we’d have the fastest five- man average in Cornell history, I would have said, ‘No way.’”
With its strong finish at Heps the future looks bright for the men’s team, both at the upcoming NCAA northeast regional championships, as well as in the years to come.
“We’re excited for the future because our team is so young and doing well,” Johnson said. “Cross country is a sport where the older you get the more you improve.”