It was an emotional weekend for the Cornell men’s and women’s cross country teams as it signaled the final cross country races of the season and the final of the career for many of its seniors.
But the lows came with equally tall highs at the NCAA regionals for Cornell with men’s senior captain Dominic Deluca running well enough to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the first time in his career.
Deluca, who finished 10th overall with a time of 32:13.0 on the day, clinched Cornell’s first qualification to NCAAs in cross country in the last two years.
“Consistency at workouts [and] all the extra stuff like stretching, rolling … that is really something I’ve done over the past four years,” Deluca said as to how he achieved the feat in his final opportunity “Guys on the team who try to be more consistent generally perform better.”
With the upcoming championships being his final competition as a member of the Red, Deluca feels honored to be able to have his final season at Cornell include a race at the NCAA level.
“This is where every senior wants to have their last cross country race,” Deluca said. “It’s really an honor that I get to extend my season another week and compete against the best guys in the country.”
“It’s a phenomenal opportunity,” added his coach, Mike Henderson. “Dom has worked really hard for four years to get to this point so it’s great that he gets to go in as a senior and do this.”
While DeLuca has more than proved his athletic prowess to this point, he is about to embark on the best competition he has faced all year from across the country this coming Saturday.
His coach is incredibly confident about his conditioning, though.
“He’s in a great place physically; his fitness is very good and mentally he’s excited and ready for the challenge,” Henderson said. “Also, our region is very accomplished. We have two teams in the top 10 in the country, so for him to go in and mix it up with those two teams he knows that he can already mix it up with anybody [at the meet].”
Deluca will compete at the NCAA Championships this upcoming Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky.
While DeLuca was able to continue his season, his teammates wrapped up the cross country competition this past weekend.
With temperatures of 18 degrees fahrenheit and winds upwards of 28 miles per hour, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams competed bravely to finish well at the NCAA Regional Championships last Friday. The men closed out the season with a ninth place finish while the women ran to an eighth place position.
Both teams executed their race plan and established good position early in their respective runs. But even with their mental toughness toward a difficult set of conditions, the Red fell three positions on both sides from their places last year at Regionals, when the men finished sixth and the women fifth.
“When we ran it the day before, we knew it was going to be challenging because it was so muddy … and then the cold front came in overnight and [froze everything],” said women’s head coach Artie Smith ’96. “I don’t know which was worse, the wind and cold or the mud. Either way, it was challenging.”.
But, Smith was very happy to see his runners fight their way through the adversity that comes with unpredictable weather.
“All you can ask from people is to be tough, and our kids were very, very tough,” he said. “They executed the race plan early and established the race position where we were hoping to be in at the end … some of our kids just ran out of steam under those conditions.”
On the men’s side of the meet, conditions were also a factor in the Red’s placing, although Henderson believed that the meet overall was a great success.
“We had five of our seven guys run their best races of the year [at Regionals] and we were really close to being in the third or fourth position that we were hoping for,” Henderson said. “All of our guys, but especially our top five, had a very good day.”
Now, the program focuses on indoor track and field season. That, and cheering on DeLuca this weekend.