October 2, 2011

X-COUNTRY | Kellner Proves Cornell Can Keep Pace With Competition

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Over 100 college cross country teams from all over the country competed at Lehigh’s Paul Short Invitational this past weekend. Both the men’s and women’s teams represented Cornell and competed against 45 other schools, with the men finishing twelfth and the women seventh.

“It was a very good meet for the women, I was very pleased,” said women’s coach Artie Smith.

Finishing first for the women was junior Katie Kellner, completing the 6000 meter course in 20:57 and placing 13th overall out of over 400 runners.

“It was a really good race for me personally,” Kellner said. “I ran up with some of the girls who are highly ranked in the nation — it was a big confidence booster.”

“Katie’s race was a big time performance,” Smith said. “The group of people she’s running with are an elite nationally ranked group and she more than held her own.”

Junior Genna Hartung was the next Cornell runner to cross the line, placing her 28th overall. Eight seconds behind her was sophomore Emmy Shearer, who finished 38th.

Conditions at the course were not ideal. Having rained all week leading up to the meet, athletes met the added challenge of running a muddy course.

“It made a significant difference on the final times,” Smith said. “I don’t think the race went out as fast as it normally does. [The athletes] competed well, and competed against the other teams…they didn’t let the nature of the course effect them.”

The sheer number of runner participating in the race also gave the competitors an added challenge. A strong start to the race was imperative, as it decided which pack a runner would be with for a greater part of the course.

“Genna didn’t get the start she wanted,” Smith said. “But second half of the race she really came through, which is very hard to do on a muddy course. She was able to close that gap in the second half and it was great to see her keep her poise and work her way through a ton of people.”

Despite the challenges, the athletes were able to come away with a very impressive finish, and even accomplished some personal best times. Sophomores Emmy Shearer, Rachel Sorna and Dale Kinney, freshman Sydney Williams and junior Kate Rosettie all ran their fastest career races.

“I was happy with how people ran,” Smith said. “They were assertive, they ran confidently and we more than held our own against some nationally ranked teams. We proved that we belong as one of the nationally ranked teams, which is exciting. We want to be at that level.”

The meet was also a promising sign for the Red as they work towards competing at the Heptagonal Championships against the other seven Ivy schools.

“All the Ivy schools were at the meet except Princeton and Columbia,” Kellner said. “Yale only beat us by four points. This might be one of the most competitive Ivy league championships in years. All the teams are pretty evenly matched … Usually there is a standout team, but this year there really isn’t.”

The women have much to look forward to, as they continue to improve their times and compete against better and better competition.

“We’ve had a different top five every meet,” Smith said. “That’s a good thing — a sign of our depth, that a lot of people can contribute and score, and we’re going to keep getting better.”

Junior Brett Kelly was the first of the Cornell men to finish, coming in 30th place with a time of 24:57 for 8000 meters. Junior Kevin Johnson placed 50th with a time of 25:12 and senior captain Chandler Kemp crossed the line three seconds later to place 54th overall.

“We finished where I thought we’d finish,” said men’s coach Robert Johnson. “The top three guys ran really well … and that was very encouraging. Our fourth and fifth guys were just off, and we have to have all [top five runners] run really well.”

“The team goal was to run as a pack, run smart, and run with the other top ivy league teams,” Kevin Johnson said.

“We were pretty optimistic going into the meet, as we ran well in the first couple races [of the season],” Kelly said. “We didn’t quite finish as well as we would hope, but had some good stuff happen.”

The size of the meet and poor course conditions were also a factor for the men.

“The race went out really fast, and I lost the group at first,” Kelly said. “There are also maybe 200 meters where the race narrows a lot, so everyone tries to get a good position before getting to the narrow part. The conditions slowed the course down a lot … my freshman year I finished 80th at the meet — this year I got 30th and was eight seconds slower [than my freshman year time].”

The Red faced strong competition, with six competing teams ranked in the top 25 nationally. Of the Ivy Leage schools in attendance Columbia finished first, placing third in the meet overall. Cornell finished sixth of the Ivy schools.

“You really get to see where you stack up, with Ivy league and a nation as a whole,” Kevin Johnson said. “We have to get used to running in big packs, the difference between 20 scoring places is 15 seconds. Every second counts in a big race. If we’d had our pack a little closer, we would’ve beat Virginia, and they’re top 25 in the country.”

“If our fourth and fifth guys run they way they should, then we’re going to be in the top 25 in the country,” coach Johnson said. “All they have to do is improve 15 seconds per man.”

Cornell’s next competition will be in two weeks, but the men are also looking ahead to the Heptagonal championships that take place in a month.

“[This meet’s] finish was good for us to realize we have to keep working, and we’re going to race hard against these Ivy league teams in a month,” coach Johnson said. “It’s going to be 1-2 seconds between the top five teams. There are lots of reasons for optimism.”

Original Author: Rebecca Velez