Both the men’s and women’s cross country squads will head to New York City’s Van Cortlandt Park again this weekend for the NCAA Regional championships. Both squads expect to build on their Heptagonal results on the same site two weeks ago, even in the face of the best competition in the Northeast.
The women have become familiar with the course at Van Cortlandt, having visited it twice already this season. Head coach Lou Duesing is focused on his harriers performing just as they would in any other race.
“All of our players really like running there … and it’s very fortunate,” Duesing said. “We want to keep everything the same [as we have all season].”
The women have not set any particular goals for placing at the event.
“It’s completely out of our control how other teams run,” Duesing said. “We’ll run our own race and see where it gets us … worrying about other teams and other runners distracts you from running your best.”
The Red finished third at Heps two weeks ago as many of its members ran career-best races at Van Cortlandt. The Red will follow the same strategy it did at the conference championships, which was allowing individual players to run independently.
“We want to try to run as a team, but [we want] good individual performances,” Duesing said. “That means that each of our team members will run at the pace she is most comfortable at.”
That place is likely to be near the top for seniors Nyam Kagwima and Toni-Lynn Salucci, who have battled each other for top honors at several races this year. Salucci narrowly bested Kagwima at Heps for a second-place finish overall.
The men’s team, meanwhile, will aim to surpass some of its regular-season rivals at Regionals.
“Yale beat us by six points at Heps, so we’ll try to finish ahead of them,” said assistant coach Robert Johnson. “Syracuse was the only team to beat us at [the Penn State Invitational] too.”
The men’s team emphasized slight adjustments on this version of the Van Cortlandt course. The length will be 10 kilometers instead of the usual 8 kilometers. More importantly, the course at Regionals is much flatter and easier to run.
“It’s an extra 1.2 miles, but most runners typically post times close to their previous ones,” said Johnson. “Our guys enjoy longer races. … It allows us to get into a groove, [and] use our fitness to our advantage.”
Junior Jimmy Wyner, the Red’s top finisher at Heps with a runner-up performance, ran one of his most impressive results on the 10K course in 2004, finishing in third place for the Red as a freshman. He and classmate Sage Canaday both aim to finish in the top-4 and qualify for the national championship meet in Terra Haute, Ind., on Nov. 20.
Senior captain Brad Baird will be unable to participate this weekend, as his final season was cut short by injury.
“The rest of us are practicing well, and we are all healthy,” Wyner said. “We’re ready to show everyone what we can do.”