As teammates who usually eat dinner, go out on weekends, and even play Halo 2 together, it makes sense that the men’s cross country runners race together as well.
Paced by Jake Gallagher ’09, the Bulldogs showcased their team unity this weekend, running to a second-place finish at the Penn State Spiked Shoe Meet in University Park, Penn. With the top five Elis crossing the finish line within 32 seconds of one another, the scoring Bulldogs all placed in the top-20 and earned 56 points total. The hosting Nittany Lions won overall with 39 points while Slippery Rock earned third place with 112 points. The teams’ point totals were based on their first five finishers.
“We were looking at how we felt out there and how we were able to run in packs,” captain Pat Dantzer ’06 said. “The race was definitely positive. Even though we lost, everyone ran really well.”
Since it was the first race of the season for many Elis, as well as the first collegiate race for Jared Bell ’09 and Gallagher, the race was a diagnostic for head coach Dan Ireland’s group training methods. Dantzer said the Bulldogs wanted to see if they could race in similar groups as those in practice.
“The basic plan was to have two packs and try to stay together for three miles,” he said. “When you race it’s a lot more comfortable with your teammates by your side. Everyone is hurting at different times, but if one of you is feeling good then you can help the others out. We have a very good chemistry.”
The first group of Dantzer, Gallagher, and Tadhg O’Callaghan ’08 hung together around 10th place for much of the race. In the final two miles, Gallagher made his move, reaching fourth place with a half mile left and finishing with a time of 25:52.
“I was a bit nervous, but I thought I did really well,” the rookie from Nova Scotia said. “I was not used to running as a team, since high school is more individual as far as the race plan goes. This time I had other guys on the team to help me out, and I ran better as a result.”
Although O’Callaghan and Dantzer were not able to keep up with Gallagher, they were only slightly off Gallagher’s 4:58 mile pace. O’Callaghan clocked in at 26:04 for eighth place and Dantzer finished 13th with a time of 26:19.
Then, while they started as the second pack, Erik Brown ’06 and Brian Gertzen ’07 ended up nearly catching their captain by finishing three and six seconds behind Dantzer, respectively, for 15th and 16th place.
Although the Bulldogs were 17 points out of first place, O’Callaghan said the Elis gave the Lions a good race.
“We were really competing with them but the numbers didn’t work out,” he said. “We didn’t know enough about Penn State going in and they might have been more comfortable in their home. It was 5.2 miles, a little longer than usual, which we were not used to, but it was a fast course and perfect weather.”
The top-five Elis were followed by Bell at 26th and Brian Hanak ’07 at 29th.
Although the meet this weekend was not particularly crucial to the Elis, especially since not every top Bulldog raced, it allowed the Elis to break in their spikes on an actual course.
“You do workouts in practice, which are tough, but in a race the feeling around 3.5 miles is different and it’s good to get that race hurt out of the way,” Dantzer said. “Then next time you go and when you feel the same pain, you think ‘Maybe I’m not dying and I can push a little harder.'”
Being able to push past that barrier of pain as a team may come in handy next weekend when the Bulldogs host Harvard.