X-country youngsters break in spikes

The cross country teams’ top runners were training in New Haven this weekend for the NCAA Pre-Nationals, but a handful of their teammates traveled north to Massachusetts for some live race experience.

Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams drove to Franklin Park in Boston to compete in the New England Championships. The men’s team garnered a 27th-place finish, while the women — who sent only three individual competitors — did not produce the minimum number of runners to finish in the team standings.

The men battled against more than 300 runners at the meet to finish behind first-place Brown and 25 other teams.

Max Walden ’11, who completed the five-mile course in 26:30 for 69th place, led the Bulldogs on Saturday. Matthew Bogdan ’11 earned 107th place in 26:55 to follow Walden in the Eli pack.

Five of the six racers were underclassmen. Head coach Dan Ireland said participating in a race of this intensity should prove beneficial in the runners’ future racing careers.

“The guys that ran in this meet were very young, and they ran very well under the circumstances,” he said. “They were used to running three miles in high school and now they are running five, so the learning curve of picking up those extra two miles can take a while.”

The runners said they would have preferred to place higher, but they are appreciative of the experience they gained from the race.

“We were not particularly happy with the finish, but we know the coach sends us to this race so we can have the opportunity to test ourselves at a collegiate level,” Bryce Scanlan ’10 said.

By keeping his top runners from the New England Championships, Ireland provided a much-needed break from competition as the team concentrates on the next weekend’s Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind.

“Running every weekend can really take its toll on the body,” Ireland said. “You need a weekend in between each race to recover.”

The runners used the break and trained at a higher level than normal, Ireland said. He said he is anxious to see how the team’s work will pay off in the Ivy League Championship later this season.

“Our number-one team goal is to finish well at the Ivy League Championship,” Ireland said. “It could be difficult to qualify, as a team from our region, to run at Nationals, but Jake Gallagher ’09 will likely go as an individual.”

Racing without their top runners may have caused the Elis to slip in the polls this week from No. 11 to No. 12, Ireland said, but these polls carry little weight until after the Pre-Nationals race.

The women’s cross country team also competed in the New England Championships this weekend, although they were not able to score as a team with only three runners participating. The Championships require the teams to have a minimum of five runners. Quinnipac won overall with 72 points.

On the 5,000-meter course, Kathryn Schleckser ’09 led the Elis, finishing in 44th place in 19:19. Alexandra Cadicamo ’10 finished in 140th place in 20:26 and was followed by Claire Leatherwood ’09, who finished in 150th place in 20:32 to round out the trio.

The women may not have been able to score as a team, but their goal was to gain experience by putting forth good individual showings.

“Only having three girls, all we could do was run individually to the best of our abilities,” Schleckser said.

Temperatures in the mid-80s made for a dry, dusty course — both the men’s and women’s teams had to deal with weather difficulties all day. Schlecker said the prospect of being engulfed in a cloud of dust affected how quickly she and her teammates got out into the race.

The runners who competed in this meet will build on the experience they gained to help them in the rest of the season.

“Every race is beneficial, and I learned how to put myself in a position to do well at this race,” Matthew Bogdan ’11 said. “We may not have been really happy with our finish, but we now know that we just have to be engaged and go out there to compete.”

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