In what could be its last meet of the season, the men’s cross country team was able to come up big in NCAA Regionals. The team finished in third place, above nationally ranked squads from Columbia and Providence, and missed out qualifying as a team for NCAA Championships by only a couple points. Despite missing out on a Top-2 finish, which would automatically place the Red in the NCAA Championship, Cornell still has a chance to earn a right to compete at the event as a team.
Seniors Ben Rainero ad Brian Eimstad, who were able to qualify for the NCAA National Championship with their results from last Friday, continued their success. Rainero placed fifth while Eimstad was able to push for a 14th place finish. The pair was followed by sophomore Dominic DeLuca who was also able to close out a strong season with a 18th place finish to close out the top three finishers for Cornell.
“The team has been absolutely amazing this year. Getting third at regionals was the best possible outcome, but getting to nationals as a team came down to which team was right behind us, and unfortunately it wasn’t Columbia, which would have pushed us in with the way qualifying works,” Eimstad said. “I know that I wouldn’t be going if it weren’t for all of my teammates, especially Dom Deluca, who kept figuratively pushing and pulling me throughout the race. It’s been an awesome year, and it’s sad to have the season come to an end.”
With several strong performances this year, the players and the coaching staff have spoken highly of the team’s performance all season.
“I would say this year’s team was among our best since the early 1990s,” said coach Zebulon Lang. “The last team to go to NCAAs as a team was the 1992 squad. The 1993 squad was the last team to win Heps. We are running with national-caliber teams. On Friday, we beat No. 16 natiitionally-ranked Columbia and No. 29 Providence, two teams that beat us last year at Regionals when we were fifth.”
Driven to earn a spot in NCAA championship, the team has also been instigated by motivation from past shortcomings.
“Our team felt confident, especially since we had raced in Boston in September and we ran fairly well there,” Lang said. “We had done great workouts leading up to Regionals. We were also a bit salty about missing out on winning Heps by only 10 points, so we also had a chip on our shoulders.”
At NCAA Champs, Eimstad and Rainero will be competing against top ranked teams from across the nation in Louisville, Kentucky.
“The NCAA champs will be the most competitive race of the season, but it’s no different really than any other meet,” Rainero said. “It’s a 10k, on a course we’ve already run before, and all we have to do is run as hard as possible for thirty minutes. That said, the depth of the field will mean that the race may get out very fast for the first quarter mile or so, and some athletes may find themselves suffering from that during the second half of the race. We just need to run carefully and move up hard over the second half of the race.”
While the season could perhaps be over for the rest of the team, Rainero and Eimstad still have one meet left.
“We’ve been preparing for this meet since June,” Rainero said. “We’ve been focused on the Regional meet from the beginning, so it feels great to qualify for Nationals after working so hard chasing this goal. We’ve raised our commitment to the sport to another level this year, and it’s allowed us to transform ourselves for the better.”