With perfect conditions for racing and a familiar course layout, both the Cornell men’s and women’s cross country teams left the city without what they had set out for — the Heps trophy.
Facing off against their Ivy League foes in New York City’s Van Cortlandt Park this past Friday, both squads walked away in the middle of the pack, with the men capturing fourth with 131 team points and the women finishing fifth with 106. Princeton took home the men’s crown, and Columbia walked away with the women’s.
Men Heading ‘In a Good Direction’ After 4th Place Finish
After a successful few months of racing, the men closed out their competitive season with a fourth place finish at Heps, an improvement from their sixth place finish last season. And while the team had extremely lofty goals for this meet, its advancing position indicates that the program is moving forward.
“You always want more, I think that’s kind of a part of being an athlete and a competitor,” assistant coach Mike Henderson said. “[But] we are certainly happy that we’re moving in a good direction.”
The Red started off strong, keeping pace with the other top teams in the race but had difficulty maintaining its position in the middle section, which saw a fall in scoring positions. Despite this struggle, Cornell came away with a final score of 131 points, just below Dartmouth, which placed fifth with 138 points.
“We lost a little bit of ground in then the middle section of the race,” Henderson said. “We were a long shot to get in the top three teams but we wanted to give them a run.”
Senior Dominic Deluca led the pack of five scoring runners for the Red, although he battled a mid-race back injury and had to dig deep hard to finish the race. Another standout was Senior Michael Wang, who moved up from 45th place at the 5k mark to finish 27th. Wang was the third-highest scorer for Cornell on the day, and his performance was a huge improvement on an 84th place finish at the meet last year.
With all five of this year’s Heps scorers being seniors, the Red will have many opportunities for the underclassmen to step up next year.
“All five of our scorers were seniors so we’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Henderson said. “They were great seniors, great leaders, so we definitely are going to have to have people that step up for next year to fill that void.”
Despite the team competition wrapping up for Red, seven individuals will have an opportunity to compete at the NCAA Regionals in a couple of weeks.
“Obviously trying to get some people onto the NCAA Championships is the first thing,” Henderson said about the goals for Regionals. “Let’s see if we can’t get a couple of all-regional runners and end with our best meet of the year.”
Regionals will take place on Nov. 10 at the Audubon Golf Course in Buffalo, with the race kicking off at noon.
Freshman Sets Cornell Van Cortlandt Park Record En Route to 5th Place Result
Although falling short of the podium, the women’s performance at Heps was far from disappointing. The team took fifth in Van Cortlandt Park on Friday with several impressive finishes, but were unable to cohesively close out the race.
“We’ve been doing a good job this season of establishing great position early in the race,” said head coach Artie Smith ’96. “Although our position was solid as we entered the trails heading into the back hills of the course, it wasn’t as good as it has been in some other races.”
The team has faced difficulty this season in effectively closing out the race after very strong starts, and with the absence of senior tri-captain Jackie Katzman, the Red struggled to claim firm ground early on. Katzman is the returning team MVP, and could not compete due to an injury.
“Many people stepped up with terrific races and all the returning runners in our top seven had their best ever place finish at the Heps,” Smith said of his other runners being able to fill the void.
The pool of competitors was diverse and there was not a single dominant squad. Columbia took home the trophy this year after finishing last at Heps a year ago, while Dartmouth took second after a seventh overall finish in 2016.
The Red had a strong and aggressive start, asserting its running positions early on. Third at the halfway point, it seemed as if the Heps title could have been in reach. However, the women fell back in the last 3000m of the race, and the championship slipped out of grasp.
Freshman Gabrielle Orie led the Cornell women, crossing the finish line in seventh place. Her time of 21:20.0 was not only good for First Team All-Ivy Honors, but was also the fastest time run by a Cornellian on this course.
Senior tri-captain Erin McLaughlin set an aggressive pace for the field and ran in the top four for the majority of the race. She ended up taking ninth with a time of 21:20.6, earning her second-team All-Ivy honors for the second consecutive year. McLaughlin was followed by her co-captain, senior Shannon Hugard, who ran the best Heps of her cross country career. Hugard finished 20th in 21:47, gaining ground in the challenging last 1000 meters of the race.
Junior Briar Brumley and sophomore Junior World Triathlon Champion Taylor Knibb closed out the top five for the Red, finishing 27th and 47th, respectively.
Next up for the women is the NCAA Northeast Regional in Buffalo, also on Nov. 10. The team and individuals will vie for a shot at the NCAA Championships in Louisville later in November.