November 14, 2011

X-COUNTRY | By One Point, Men Miss Seventh Place; Women Just 10 Points Shy of Qualifying for Nationals

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Cornell finished the fall season on Saturday, when both the men’s and women’s teams competed at the NCAA regional championships in Buffalo.

Syracuse finished first in the region on the men’s side, followed by Iona in second and Columbia in third. Cornell finished eighth out of the 33 teams, edged out by the University of Buffalo for seventh by only one point. Yet the team was not dissatisfied by their finish in the meet.

“Overall we did pretty well,” said sophomore Max Groves. “We executed our race time pretty well … [we] went out as a pack, the last part of the race was really strong and a lot of us passed guys in the last 2,000 meters. It wasn’t our best day, but it wasn’t our worst.”

Finishing first for Cornell was junior Brett Kelly, who placed 31st overall. Right behind him was junior Kevin Johnson, in 32nd place. Max Groves finished in 43rd place and senior captain Chandler Kemp placed 50th. Junior Matt McCullough rounded out the Red’s top five in 62nd.

“We all had solid races,” Kemp said. “Overall it was a good meet … everyone ran a good race. Going into the season, a lot of people ranked us 13th or so in the region, and we finished 8th, so we certainly exceed a lot of expectations.”

Kemp is the team’s only senior. While he will be missed as the reliable and inspiring leader he has proved himself to be this season, the younger runners have a lot to look forward to next fall.

“It’s a close team,” Kemp said. “We’ve been running as a pack all year, and developed a sense of working together … it’s going to continue. There are a lot of good leaders in the junior class … and I’ve been impressed with the spirit they’ve brought to the team. It’ll certainly result in even better performances next year.”

The team has already starting thinking about where it can improve next season.

“Next year we’re hoping to get more runners into our front pack,” Groves said. “With the freshmen a year older and wiser, and some runners back from injuries … we definitely have a bright future. It’s just a matter of putting the work in and being dedicated.”

The women’s team ended their outstanding season on a bittersweet note, finishing ten points short of being one of 31 teams that qualify for the national championships. The first two finishing teams — Syracuse and Boston College — are the only teams in the region that will compete at nationals, despite being part of the largest region in the country.

“Unfortunately we don’t get an invitation, and it’s not anybody’s fault,” said coach Artie Smith. “I’ve gotten a lot of nice emails from coaches around the country … [Our team] ran awesome on Saturday, and did everything they could do to earn a spot [at nationals] … those top two teams are really good.”

The Red was hoping that it would earn a spot as one of the thirteen at-large bids from teams that did not finish in the top two of their region, but that hope was dashed later in the weekend when it was announced that only Syracuse and Boston College would be participating in the championships. Along with Cornell, No. 5 ranked Providence will also be excluded from the competition next week.

“Some regions are tougher than others,” Smith said. “They want to make sure the top teams get there … but two teams in top 30 didn’t make it [this year].”

The meet this weekend concluded what has been an outstanding season for the Cornell women. Despite missing national qualification by a hair, the team will still look back on the 2011 season with a sense of pride.

“I’m happy with the effort they gave,” Smith said. “It’s the best team performance I’ve ever seen at a regional meet. It’s frustrating to see how close we were … Coming in ranked 4th, and to get 3rd … we exceeded expectations. We beat some really good teams [this weekend].”

Junior Katie Kellner finished her season in top form, placing fourteenth out of 250 runners. Teammate Genna Hartung was second for the Red. Both earned all-region honors.

“Katie Kellner was really assertive, putting herself in the lead pack in the race,” Smith said. “She’s been a fearless leader for us in that regard. Genna ran one of the best second halves of the race, moving up significantly, to finish 20th.”

Sophomore Devin McMahon had her best race of the season, placing 28th overall, with Emmy Shearer behind her to finish fourth for Cornell in 33rd. Senior Janel Parker finished her cross country career on a great note, closing out the top five by placing 42nd.

“Janel Parker, for the second meet in a row, was tremendous,” Smith said. “She moved up 30 spaces in [the] last half of the race, from 75th to 42nd. Having her come in that strongly really helped the team quite a bit.”

Along with the recognition of being third in the region, Cornell finishes the season with an Ivy league championship title and ranked 29th in the country.

“This is a season that was just awesome,” Smith said. “There were a lot of great things, and we have high aspirations for next year. We exceeded a lot of expectations … People competed really well, that’s all you can ask. I’m really, really proud of them.”

Original Author: Rebecca Velez