Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Cornell finished first in its preseason meet.

September 28, 2017

With New Coach, Men’s Cross Country Kicks Off Competitive Portion at Lehigh

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Following a first-place finish in its preseason meet at New York City’s Van Cortlandt Park on Sept. 8, the Cornell men’s cross-country team is looking to continue its positive momentum into the competitive portion of its season this weekend.

The team will travel to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on Friday to compete in the Paul Short Run against schools from both within the Ivy League as well as those from other conferences. Several top-30 ranked teams, No. 10 Iona, No. 17 Georgetown and No. 28 Columbia, among others, will look to prevent the men from securing their first win at the Lehigh-hosted meet.

And with this meet beginning the first big competition of the season, the Red is looking to achieve some high goals and set a benchmark for progress throughout the next few months.

“Being in the top three or four teams at this meet … that’s kind of the first checkmark,” first-year assistant coach Mike Henderson said of the team’s goals for the weekend. “The second thing would be making sure we are working together. … I think we can have a strong presence in the top 15 individually.”

Senior captain Dominic DeLuca, like some of the other experienced runners for the team, has yet to compete this year, as a portion of the Red did not run against Columbia and Brown at the preseason meet earlier in the month. He emphasized that this race is the true beginning of the season, hoping to carry the success of last year.

“We had a lot of momentum from track in the spring, so we are kind of carrying that forward,” he said. “We weren’t at full strength for the first meet. … We’re going to try and tackle this and this is what we are thinking of as our first race.”

Despite not having started its competitive segment of the year, the Red is eager to get on the course after countless hours of intrasquad training.

“We had a really intense three week training block where we were all at max mileage and doing a good chunk of the workouts for the season,” Deluca said. “Now it’s just maintaining and sharpening our skills.”

In its preseason competition, the Red strategically emphasized pack running — pacing with teammates in groups throughout the race. Henderson, who guides the cross country teams, looks to continue this strategy in the upcoming weekend and into championship season.

“We were in a much bigger group and the race just went out a little slower,” he said when comparing the pace of this weekend to the past. “That’s not gonna happen this time … but we still want them working together in their groups and with their teammates.”

This meet contains several strong teams, with four of the five power conferences expected to be in attendance. With that in mind, Henderson has told his team, “you have to be comfortable running in the masses and get used to that mentality, and not just mentally check out of the race because you’re in a different spot than you’re used to.”

While this may be the first competition of the year for the men, it is also Henderson’s first as a coach on East Hill after his hiring in July following various stints around the country. His team said his influence on training and race preparation is already having a positive effect, complementing the efforts of the athletes as well as his coaching staff.

“He focuses a lot on the little things, like technique, which have been overlooked sometimes in the past,” DeLuca said.

Despite it being early in the season, and a new coach just integrating with the team, the Red is confident it will perform well this weekend and has very little to worry about in the upcoming meet.

“The course is fantastic,” Henderson said. “It is a fast start, but it’s not brutal at any point, so the biggest thing that we have to focus on is getting in position and then being comfortable in the group.”

Competition for the men kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Friday from the Keystone State.