It was a windy late October day when the men’s cross country team delivered a valiant performance in New York’s Van Cortlandt Park, falling just 10 points shy of an Ivy League title. One of the closest run Heps of all-time, the result was only good enough for a fourth place finish, but the runners still put together an excellent showing.
Two weeks later, the Red took third place in NCAA regionals, falling just one spot shy of an NCAA Championship bid. Two runners did make the trip to Louisville, Kentucky for the event, the first time in over 20 years for Cornell’s program.
Both of them — Ben Rainero and Brian Eimstad — graduated in the spring, leaving a deep void to fill. Despite this loss, men’s cross country head coach Zeb Lang feels his new freshmen class will help out.
“We graduated our two NCAA qualifiers from last season, but we have a solid crew of seven incoming freshmen here now to help us continue our success,” he said.
Nearly all of the men’s cross country team also competes in distance events as part of the track and field team, and numerous members of the team ran very well.
“Our senior trio of James Gowans, David Taylor, and Mark Tedder are all coming off of incredible track seasons,” Lang said. “All three qualified for the NCAA East Regional meet in May, and Gowans established himself as one of the best milers in the country at the NCAA Championships indoors and outdoors.” He ran an extremely impressive 3:58 mile back in February, just the 459th sub four minute mile ever run.
This offseason has been a very productive one and he hopes the team’s motivation and work ethic manifest themselves in results, according to Lang.
“The training has been going extremely well,” he said. “The guys are hungry, happy, and healthy coming into the new year.”
The calendar for this year includes just five meets before Ivy Championships, but Lang has stressed the importance of the so-called regular season and working hard every day.
“We have 12 weeks to NCAAs,” he said. “That is plenty of time to lay a strong foundation of workouts. We don’t over-hype any one race, but when we race, we aren’t farming for cupcakes. We bring it. We have scheduled national-class competitions all fall, so there’s not a soft spot anywhere on our schedule.”
Still, the season comes down to the Red’s performance in November during championship season.
“We are training for November,” Lang added. “We intend to give it our all to qualify as a team for the NCAA Championships and make another run at the Ivy Heps title in the process.”
Heps take place in late October and NCAA Championships follow a few weeks later in November, but the season gets underway in two weeks, and coach Lang is looking forward to his team’s chemistry coming together.
“I can’t wait to see how this team gels as a unit,” he said. “Each year the team chemistry is a bit different.”
Lang is also excited to see the further progression of his new senior class — all of whom he coached as freshmen in his first season at the helm.
“Since I started coaching the group, our first recruiting class has now reached senior year,” he said. “Our first recruits now lead the team, and it’s been amazing to watch these guys develop. It’s a ton of fun to see this group of distance runners blossom.”
Time will tell if those seniors can use their experience to lead the Red to the promised land later on in the year.
Action gets underway September 10 at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational hosted by Penn State, where several nationally recognized teams are slated to compete.