The cross country postseason begins this Saturday, as both the men’s and women’s teams will fight it out against the Ancient Eight in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships in Princeton, N.J.
Both teams are allowed to field 12-person rosters, with a scoring five, and a six and seven that can disrupt the results for other teams.
The runners are well rested after the majority of them sat out the John Reif Memorial Run this past weekend, giving younger runners who will not be traveling to the league championships a chance to compete.
While men’s head coach Zeb Lang ‘03 acknowledges the stiff competition Penn will provide — the team is undefeated amongst all other Ivy League teams — he said he believes that if the team performs strongly, the men can secure a victory.
The team’s ability to perform will largely hinge on the leadership of the upperclassmen.
“They are the leaders in workouts and races so far. It comes down to our tenacity and toughness,” Lang said.
Women’s head coach Artie Smith ‘96 said the goal is simply for the team to perform to the best of its ability. He said he believes that if the team continues to improve, the Red will remain competitive in the fight for victory.
With a set of 12 runners, who are all capable of breaking the scoring five, Smith said he expects the spread between his runners to be tight.
“We do not have to declare ahead of time which of the 12 will be [the scorers],” Smith said. “Each of them have the opportunity to contribute to the team’s success. While not everyone can score given the basic math involved, everyone will have an impact on how our team works and competes together and we have a very capable lineup where indeed all 12 do have the capability of ending up in the top five.”
In preparation for race day, Smith said he and his team have been working on sharpening their speed. Smith cites the team’s strong performance at the Penn State National as turning point for the squad.
“Each week we’ve gotten better at closing out the race and we took a huge step in that direction at Penn State on Oct. 14,” Smith said.
While Lang has not set a specific target for what place he expects the men’s team to finish, individual runners have personal goals. Junior Sam Chauvin is hoping to place in the top 20, yet he indicated that working as a team is crucial to any individual successes.
“We believe that we will compete as we practice and if we want to race as a team we have to train together, every step of the way, both literally and figuratively,” Chauvin said. “However, we all recognize that the best way to attain these personal goals is to run as a team and work together throughout the race.”
While cross country is, at its core, an individual sport, there are clear benefit of training and running as a team, according to junior Chase Silverman.
“Running by yourself, you are going to let doubt creep into your mind, which may cause you to run slower, or even drop out of the pack,” Silverman said. “But when you have your teammate next to you, he’s going to drive you to go faster … and when you have three or four guys pushing each other, it’s likely that everybody will stick together and run faster.”
Silverman said he is excited to make his first appearance at Heps after missing last season’s competition through injury. Silverman led the Red in the last scored meet at Penn State on Oct. 14.
In preparation for the championships, Lang has reduced the intensity levels of training as compared to the beginning of the season. Additionally, the majority of runners competing in the Heps, for both the mens and womens teams, were rested in last weeks unscored John Reif Memorial Run, the final regular season meet at home on the John Moakley Golf Course.
“In general, the workouts are easier at this time of year; they are more focused on recovery and injury prevention, and making sure we are properly rested,” Lang said. “A lot of the training has been done already.”
Chauvin indicated that the team has placed an emphasis on operating as a unit, citing the training and preparation over the past two weeks. He describes the atmosphere as “energetic,” as many runners will be running in their first postseason. Chauvin also said the team’s chemistry and familial feel has boosted his motivation.
“I know it sounds cliche to say that we have all come together really well as team for the championship season, but it is true,” Chauvin said. “We feel like a family more than ever. We want to do whatever we can to help each other succeed.”