This past Friday, the Cornell men’s and women’s cross country team competed against the rest of the Ivy League at the annual Heptagonal Championships in New York City. Twelve runners from both teams participated, with the women’s team running the 6k and the men’s team running a five-mile course.
The men’s team placed sixth overall out of eight teams, finishing with 164 points. Freshman Perry MacKinnon (25:19.1) led all Cornell runners and placed 20th overall. He was followed shortly after by sophomore Matthew Fusco (24th, 25:24.2), sophomore Marek Nowak (27th, 25:32.2), freshman Rishabh Prakash (49th, 26:03.5) and junior co-captain Paul Casavant (50th, 25:03.8).
Following an eighth-place finish in 2018, Casavant was encouraged by this year’s results.
“[The meet] was definitely a step in the right direction from last year,” Casavant said. “We got almost 100 fewer points and moved up two places, so there’s really some growth we’re seeing from the team which is exciting. We still have a really young team, and we struggled a lot with injuries this year, which means there’s a lot more to give.”
Casavant also praised the growing young talent on the freshman-heavy team.
“[We] had some really exciting performances from some of our young guys,” Casavant said. “Perry [MacKinnon] … was our top finisher for the team and we had another guy really step up, Sean Henretta. … It was really nice to see some of the young guys step up on that bigger stage.”
The women’s team also placed sixth out of the eight teams with 127 points. Senior Taylor Knibb (21:10.0) led Cornell runners with a fifth-place finish. Afterward, senior Kyleigh Spearing (18th, 21:54.0), junior Gabrielle Orie (25th, 22:01.5), sophomore Natalie Morris (40th, 22:17.0) and Audrey Huelskamp (43rd, 22:20.8) crossed the line.
“I was really happy with the team’s performance,” Spearing said. “I think we worked really well together and that’s something we’ve been working on all season. Everyone that was racing really performed for each other and that’s something I will always be proud of.”
With the Heptagonals wrapped up, both teams now look forward to the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships to continue their season. This meet will serve as a qualifier for the NCAA Championships.
“Everyone’s really looking forward to another chance to race and show that even though we’re a young team, we’re still really eager to compete,” said Casavant.
“I think we’re really excited. Last year, we actually placed higher at Regionals than we did at Heps, so it’s a comfortable course,” said Spearing.
The cold Ithaca climate might help the Red run better than its opponents, who may not be as well acclimated to such harsh weather conditions.
“The weather is usually awful, so the teams that are successful are usually the ones who are ready to just go in and forget about the weather and … grind through [it],” Casavant said.
“Usually the weather is a bit unpredictable at Buffalo, which plays to our strengths, so the team’s really excited for it,” Spearing echoed.
The men’s and women’s cross country teams will head to Buffalo, New York on Friday, Nov. 15 to compete at the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships.