Seeking to redeem from its disappointing sixth place finish at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships last year, the Cornell men’s cross country team hopes to produce better results at this year’s Heps after months of tactical training, a new assistant coach and the addition of three new runners on the Heps team.
With only a week before Heps, which will take place this Friday Oct. 27 at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, the team looks to continue practicing nothing more than its usual manner after its style of training was proven successful at last Friday’s Penn State National Invite. The men’s cross country team finished fourth place behind Division I No. 10 Oklahoma State and No. 30 Penn State.
Senior captain Dominic Deluca led his team at Penn State with a fourth place individual finish with a time of 25 minutes and 19 seconds on the 5.2 mile course.
“We’re doing a better job now during races, having confidence [and] running with teammates,” Deluca said. “We’re pulling better strategies going to the championships races. Each meet of the season, we’re getting better and better which didn’t happen last year.”
Deluca competed at Heps last year where he finished 21st place as the second top runner for the team. This year, however, Deluca looks to finish with the opponents’ fastest runners.
“For me, it’s [going to be] the battle of the top runners from each Ivy,” he said.
First year assistant coach Mike Henderson, who brings his coaching experience to Cornell after training the cross country team at William & Mary, hopes his team will be able to continue working together as they enter Heps. The team has been shortening its weekly mileage and committing more time on its speed training workouts.
“If we focus on ourselves, execute our race plan and have 12 guys run what they can, we’ll leave the course really happy,” Henderson said. “We can really improve on sixth place.”
Though Cornell trains countless hours in preparation for Heps, both Deluca and Henderson agree that any outcome can result from Heps.
“You never know what’s gonna happen. It’s the most unpredictable meet you can race, which makes it exciting,” Deluca said. “We’re going with an open mind and confidence.”
Most of the runners on the team are veterans of the Heps race and are aware of its unpredictability as nine out of the 12 runners on the Heps team competed last year. However, three new runners — freshman Paul Casavant, sophomore Robert Whitney and senior Tim Boston — will be added to the team this year to help the team compete against the other Ivy’s.
Making it on the Hep’s team is a challenge as only 12 of the fastest runners of the 31-man roster compete. It requires strategic training from the beginning of the season, and consistency throughout the year.
“This season, I focused on the long term goals that I had set for myself which included staying healthy, injury free and not hammering mileage too early too soon,” Whitney said. “During races I trusted my training to carry me through [and] I made considerable efforts at pack-running [which] helped my teammates and [me] tremendously.”
With its season-long training, coaching from Henderson and three additional runners for its Heps team, Cornell hopes to place much higher than last year’s results.
The Red will compete against its Ivy foes on Friday.