After competing in California for two straight weekends during Spring Break, most of the women’s track team was given this past weekend off — not senior Toni Salucci.
On Saturday, Salucci competed in the Stanford Invitational and placed 16th in the 5K.
“[Salucci] did a terrific job,” said women’s track head coach Lou Duesing. “For her to run to the way she did, it speaks highly of her ability and focus.”
Salucci’s performance was impressive when you consider the obstacles that stood in front of her. Salucci was coming off two consecutive weekends of competition, placing second in the 1500-meter dash at the Long Beach State Invitational and first at the UC-Irvine Classic in the 3K. In addition, Salucci was entered into a meet with top collegiate and post-collegiate athletes, being seeded 25th in a field of 31 runners.
With all the obstacles facing her up to the race, Salucci was met with another during the actual meet.
“Unfortunately, somebody fell right in front of her during the race,” Duesing said. “She had to stop and jump over the person … had that not happened, she would have probably run faster.”
For now, Pam Hunt ’94, Cornell’s record holder in the 5K, will remain atop the list. Despite the unusual occurrence, though, Salucci finished with a time of 16:17.62 — the third best time in Cornell history.
Salucci’s performance is also the 11th-best outdoor collegiate performance this year, but who knows how fast Salucci’s time could have possibly been.
Nonetheless, the Wading River, N.Y., native was able to set a new personal best time by seven seconds amongst a competitive field of opponents. It was also a 33-second improvement on her Jan. 26 performance at the Boston University Terrier Classic
Duesing pointed to her continued efforts to overcome obstacles, just like the ones dealt before her on Saturday, as a reason for her improvement.
“As a freshman it is hard to adjust to college,” Duesing said. “But Toni [Salucci] transferred to Cornell and struggled her sophomore year. … By her junior year she got it.”
In her junior year, the University of Rhode Island transfer helped guide the cross-country team to an ECAC championship. She was voted the team’s most improved player, won the steeplechase at the Penn Relays and finished third at the outdoor ECACs in the 3K.
After a tumultuous beginning, it seems as if everything is coming together for Salucci.
“Her work ethic has been outstanding,” Duesing said. “She has been doing a better job of listening to her body and has done anything we have asked her to. Now, everything that she has been doing is continuing to pay dividends.”
The final result of her efforts, Duesing hopes, will result in an outdoor NCAA Championship appearance.
“Last season, [Salucci] just missed the indoor qualifier,” Duesing said. “Hopefully, this will help her get to the big show at Nationals.”