September 28, 2011

Deep Men’s Unit, Hard-Working Women to Race in Pa.

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This weekend will be the first real test this fall for the cross country team, as it travels to Lehigh to compete in the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, Pa. tomorrow at 10 a.m.“It’s a really big meet — one of the biggest meets on the east coast,” said men’s head coach Robert Johnson.The meet is expected to attract over 120 teams, with six nationally-ranked teams on the men’s side. There will be three different assignments for the men’s race so not all teams are racing at the same time. Cornell is in the Gold Race assignment along with 42 other teams.“It’s a great meet for us. We judge ourselves against the nation’s best teams, and the entire Ivy league is also there,” Johnson said. “Princeton is a huge favorite in the conference, so we’ll see how we stack up against them.”The standard 8000m-long course is generally known to be fairly fast.“The course is pretty flat — [there are] usually fast running times,” said sophomore Gabe Heck. “It’s probably the fastest time the guys will run the whole year; everyone likes racing on this course,” Johnson said.The Red will also have key runners back for this meet, including juniors Bobby Micikas and Matt McCullough. “Instead of having five pretty strong guys, we’ll have seven or eight that will really help us,” Johnson said. “Practices have been going well. The group seems focused, they’re dedicated and even though we only have one senior, they’re trying to do well now instead of waiting for the future. They want to test themselves against the best teams out there. It’s a perfect meet for us — Ivy league plus the nationally ranked teams; these are the types of teams that we want to be competing with.”“This is a preview for how things will shape up in conference championships,” Heck said. “It’ll be fun to see how we match up against teams and to see how we need to improve over the next month. We’re excited to run some fast times.”The women will also take the chance to see how they match up against some of the top nation’s teams, as well as the rest of the Ivy League.“It’s a very competitive meet,” said women’s head coach Artie Smith. “It’s an exciting opportunity for the kids that are racing, not just because there are so many teams — it is our first large invitational — but the teams there are very good.”Of the top 30 teams in the country on the women’s side, seven will be at Lehigh this weekend to race on the 6000m course. “We’re very familiar with it. It’s known to be a fast course, but not necessarily easy,” Smith said. “It still has some challenges, but a lot of runners look forward to this meet because it’s an opportunity to run a fast time and to compete against top people.”Besides Columbia, all of the Ivy women’s teams will be in attendance this weekend.“We will certainly be keeping an eye on our Ivy peers,” Smith said. “We think we have a very good team, and a nationally competitive team, so we expect to be doing well. Meets like this help determine whether that sense is accurate or not.”Both teams have trained the last two weeks without a meet, so this weekend will be an opportunity to make the hard work pay off.“Practices have been going great. People have been staying healthy and the quality of work is at a high level,” Smith said. “They’ve learned some good things from the first couple races, and now we’re in something bigger and more competitive. We’re excited to get out there, and particularly ready to do well.”

Original Author: Rebecca Velez