The impact of the men’s freshman class was demonstrated at their season opener this past weekend at the Bucknell Bison Open. Five of the team’s top seven finishers were freshmen, implying an incredible potential for growth over the course of the season, as the team’s youngest members continue to gain experience racing at the collegiate level.
Despite their best efforts, the men’s and women’s cross country teams both came up short in their attempts to qualify for Nationals at the NCAA Northeast Regional championships over the weekend. The Red finished in sixth place on both the men’s and women’s sides of the competition, which was hosted by Columbia at Van Cortlandt Park in New York City.
Although Cornell fell short of its lofty goals, seniors Zac Hine and Marie Parks and sophomore Adrien Dannemiller earned All-Region honors by placing in the top-25 of their respective races.
If slow and steady always wins the race, things are looking good for the men’s cross country program. In the past five seasons, the team has climbed from eighth to seventh to sixth to fifth to second place at Heps, the Ivy League championship.
Last year’s runner-up finish was the best for the squad in 15 years, and the men enter the 2008 season on a tremendous wave of momentum with many experienced legs.
“Every year that I’ve been here we’ve been better the next year,” said assistant coach Robert Johnson. “It took a long time to get there, but hopefully that trend continues. The better you get, the harder it is to be satisfied.”
Whether by bus or by plane, the Red’s miles of travel and miles of summer training paid off this past weekend.
The women’s cross country team bussed it to the 34th annual Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. The men’s team flew to South Bend, Ind. to compete at the 52nd Notre Dame Invitational. Though each team faced their strongest competition yet, racing against 47 and 23 teams respectively, the Red returned to Ithaca with its share of success.
In a field of 47 teams and 317 runners, the women’s team placed 7th overall, defeating nationally ranked teams such as Tennessee (28) and Heps rivals Penn and Harvard.
Four years after being hired as Cornell’s distance coach, Robert “Rojo” Johnson still truly believes that the sky is the limit for his runners and for himself. This comes as no surprise since Johnson, once upon a time, came within a minute of accomplishing his ultimate goal: making the Olympic trials. Now, Johnson’s goal is to spread the knowledge of cross country to not only his runners, but the world.