The first meet after a long offseason is often a tricky one. Athletes and coaches do not know what to expect, and there is usually quite a bit of rust to shake off. Yet, at Saturday’s Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational, the men’s cross country team bolted straight into full stride, taking second place in a highly competitive eight team field in State College, Pennsylvania.
Head coach Zeb Lang ’03 credits his veteran group for this success, and said he feels their overall experience was key in avoiding some opening-day jitters.
“Our top seven is full of juniors and seniors who are used to this routine, and this isn’t their first rodeo,” Lang said. “Our training isn’t [special], but it gets the job done and if our guys follow the plan, they get stronger and become more able to adjust to tough situations.”
Cornell’s impressive second place total of 67 points trailed only Syracuse — the defending national champions and current No. 1 team in the nation. The Red edged out No. 7 Georgetown, host Penn State and Ivy League foe Princeton, among several others.
Lang also said he was pleased with Saturday’s result, but the wide gap between Cornell and Syracuse assured him that there is plenty to work on.
“We thought we ran a solid race, but we clearly have more work to do,” he stated. “Syracuse gave us quite a wallop. They showed us why they are the defending NCAA champions, and it was certainly eye-opening to see what the No. 1 team in the country is capable of. It will keep us motivated going forward.”
Still, the Red did more than hold its own over the weekend, and defeating a team like Georgetown is nothing to be scoffed at. Lang said he appreciated the opportunity to compete against top teams, regardless of the result.
“We embrace the challenge to run with the nation’s best,” he said. “We appreciate the support we receive that allows us to travel to great meets, and when we get those opportunities, we do our best to take advantage of them.”
Saturday was no different. Each of Cornell’s five scoring runners finished in the event’s top 20, and all of them remained competitive throughout the 6.1 mile course. Junior Dom DeLuca bested his teammates, finishing in 26:49, good for 10th overall.
Senior Mark Tedder took 11th, less than five seconds behind DeLuca. DeLuca’s classmate, Josh Dryland finished in 13th, senior James Gowans took 16th, and junior Chase Silverman rounded out the Red’s top five in 17th place overall.
Lang said he was proud of the individual efforts his men put forward.
“Dom DeLuca really showed that he is ready to lead this team into the future … I thought he ran a hard-nosed race out there,” Lang said. “Mark Tedder was pretty sick and came back from the depths of hell in the last mile to close well, and Josh Dyrland really put himself out there and ran with the boldness we need right now.”
Now the team will wait three weeks until its next meet in the beginning of October at Lehigh — one of particular importance. Saturday’s results leave the team confident but with plenty to address in the interim.
“We will train hard for three weeks before that next meet on Oct. 1. We will see most of the Ivy League and a stronger Georgetown team,” Lang said. “It will give us a real chance to test ourselves.”
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