October 3, 2008

Red Keeps Climbing To the Top

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If slow and steady always wins the race, things are looking good for the men’s cross country program. In the past five seasons, the team has climbed from eighth to seventh to sixth to fifth to second place at Heps, the Ivy League championship.
Last year’s runner-up finish was the best for the squad in 15 years, and the men enter the 2008 season on a tremendous wave of momentum with many experienced legs.
“Every year that I’ve been here we’ve been better the next year,” said assistant coach Robert Johnson. “It took a long time to get there, but hopefully that trend continues. The better you get, the harder it is to be satisfied.”
With Princeton returning as repeat league champions and heavy favorites, continuing the trend towards satisfying a long-awaited Heps title will take many miles of hard work.
Senior captain Sam Luff kept the team focused this summer by inviting all of the returning runners to train at his cabin in northern Pennsylvania.
“We spent four days or so there and just ran about 17 miles a day,” Luff said. Though two of last year’s top-3 runners graduated, a majority of the 2007 squad has returned ready to fill their shoes.
“I think we’re finally at a point as a program that we have good guys in every class and we should be competing for the conference championship,” Johnson said.
“Last year being our highest Heps finish was really encouraging,” Luff said. “For sure this year is definitely more of a team atmosphere. [Losing seniors] forces everyone to be more responsible and more accountable.”
Some of the top returnees include Luff and senior classmates Zac Hine and Andy Miller, junior Charlie Hatch and sophomore Adrien Dannemiller. Johnson believes Miller could potentially become the first Cornell runner to break the four-mintue barrier. Also contributing to the team’s depth is senior Joel Frost-Tift, juniors Dale Taylor and Pete Loy and sophomores Nate Edelman and Max Kasak.
“We may not be the favorites, but if things go our way we are now deep enough that we have a chance,” Johnson said.
Capturing the first league title for the program since 1993 is one motivator during those 17 miles every day. The Red will also compete for an NCAA bid this season. With the championship races approaching at the end of October, keeping the men healthy and focused is a top priority.
“Everyone is really healthy right now and if we keep that up we are going to be good,” Luff said.
“The goal is always to move forward with the program,” Johnson said. “I would like to just keep getting better as the season goes along and be running our best a month from now. If we run our best at Heps but we don’t win, then we don’t win. Somebody had to run well to beat us.”