With a first place finish in New York City on Sept. 8 and countless hours of technical training for almost a month following, the Cornell men’s cross country team entered the Paul Short Run this weekend ready to stamp its dominance by competing against nationally ranked schools, including Division I No. 17 Georgetown and Division II No. 1 Adams State.
Despite finishing tied for 12th place, coming into the race the team’s tactic was to ensure they ran together as a pack and start in an advantageous position. First-year assistant coach Mike Henderson believed that his team would have been able to place around top four if it were able to properly execute this strategy.
However, “we did not execute as expected, nor did we execute up to our abilities,” Henderson said. “We got too excited with the first race of the season and went out way too hard and paid the price.”
The team stuck to its pack and put itself into a front position as soon as the race gun blew, adjusting to the quick start of the other runners. However, a few kilometers into the eight-kilometer race, some of the members of the pack took a toll from the team’s bold strategy as they began to fall behind and lose sight of the lead.
Senior captain Dominic DeLuca, who led the pack in the beginning, kept his position up front to finish ninth with a time of 23 minutes and 48 seconds — a personal record and the second-fastest eight-kilometer race in Cornell’s history.
“My mind was always on … movement of the top group,” DeLuca said, explaining his race strategy. “I always want to be in sight of where I want to finish, and I executed that pretty well.”
Fellow senior captain Chase Silverman also broke his personal record with a run of 24 minutes and 21 seconds to place 44th individually. Despite the strong performances from the senior captains, the team as a whole was not able to perform at the level it hoped. Its third, fourth and fifth runners finished 102nd, 105th and 108th, respectively, and the team finished overall in an unforeseen 12th place.
Going forward, the team looks to learn from its performance. As DeLuca and Henderson both put it, the team learned the difference between putting themselves into a comfortable position and starting off too strong. Next, the Red looks to continue running in packs, but in positions that will be advantageous toward running consistently in middle sections of the race and finishing with a kick. They said they will patiently and tactfully continue to train to execute this strategy.
“The mistakes [we] made at Paul Short are very easily correctable, and I am confident that we will start to more truly show who we are going forward,” Henderson said. “The silver lining to our performance is that we came out of it injury-free and our fitness did not suffer because we went out too hard.”
Though the Paul Short Run brought into reality the very rudimentary execution of the team’s game plan, the race also highlighted the performance of the brand new freshman class.
“I learned that we have a lot of gritty guys who are fearless,” Henderson said about his new runners.
Leading the class of 2021 at the meet was freshman Paul Casavant, who ran a time of 25 minutes and 49 seconds. Casavant, as well, took a shot at sticking to the team’s pack and following the lead of the upperclassmen. He looks to continue to improve his performance as he attempts to make it on the Heps team this year.
“I definitely learned a lot from this race,” he said. “We have a ton of talented guys on the team this year so it will definitely be a challenge [to make the Heps squad]. … Everyone is really motivated and working hard to bring this program to a new level and I think the results are going to show.”
The team will have another shot at proving its potential at executing its strategy and spotlighting its underclassmen at the Penn State National Open in State College, Pennsylvania. on Friday, Oct. 13.