Both the men’s and women’s cross-country teams ran through the finish line of their regular seasons at the Penn State National cross-country meet Saturday morning in University Park, Penn.
Members of the women’s team, who ran a race of 6,000 meters, scored 391 points and tied for 13th place with Kent State. West Virginia took first place in the meet with 40 points. On the men’s side, the team scored 269 points for a 10th place finish in their 5.2 mile race, which is approximately 8,400 meters. Georgetown took first place at the meet with 43 points.
Over 600 men and women competed in the meet, which took place on the Penn State golf course, making for a mostly flat and grassy terrain.
“As a team, we were a little disappointed in our team finish, but we had some strong individual performances,” captain Kelli Buck ’09 said. “All three of our freshmen made it into the top seven.”
Buck led the Elis, finishing 63rd overall with a time of 22:05. Stephanie Pearl ’10 placed right behind her in 64th place with a time of 22:08 for 64th. Bevin Peters ’09 (69th, 22:13) and Jennifer Downing ’12 (91st, 22:45) finished third and fourth for the Bulldogs.
Anne Lovelace ’12 ran a close race with teammate Claire Leatherwood ’09, both running a time of 23:00, but Lovelace inched her out at the end, placing 104th overall and finishing out the scoring for the Elis.
“I thought she ran great,” Buck said, referring to Lovelace. “It was a huge improvement, and it is a huge accomplishment for a freshman to make it into the top five. She put forth a phenomenal effort.”
The team ran an average time of 22:26 and had a 55-second spread.
To lead the men’s team, captain Jake Gallagher ’09 finished 38th overall, running through the finish line with a time of 26:08. The next four finishers to round out the scoring were Jared Bell ’09 (47th, 26:14), John Hinkle ’09 (57th, 26:25), Jeff Perella ’10 (62nd, 26:28) and Murat Kayali ’09 (65th, 26:31).
“We certainly could have performed better, but there were some individual performances that were encouraging,” Gallagher said.
He said he was impressed by the performances of Perella and Matt Bogdan ’11 who finished 71st with a time of 26:36.
“They’ve both been due for a good meet, and it’s good to see their training finally paying dividends,” Gallagher said.
However, Bogdan said the team could have still done better.
“I don’t think we ran to our potential,” Bogdan said. “We wanted to have our strongest meet of the season this week, but I think we performed better as a team at Maine [Murray Keatinge Invitational] two to three weeks ago.”
But despite the disappointment, the men combined for an average time of 26:21 and a 23-second spread. That bodes well for the Heptagonal Championships, which will be held at the end of the month in the Bronx. There, both teams will compete for the Ivy League Championship. A low spread is key because it means the team will have a higher likelihood of finishing in consecutive places, which makes for the lowest possible score, Buck explained.
“This was by far the biggest meet of the year,” Buck said.
She added that big meets are a nice change from the usual small meets, since meets with more athletes allow runners to be in constant contact with someone else.
“There’s always someone right in front of you to catch up with,” Buck said.
Regarding this weekend’s performance, Gallagher said, “It’s an indication of how much better we’re going to have to perform, but at the same time with the two key performances [by Perella and Bogdan], it shows what we’re capable of.”
The Bulldogs will have another chance to prove themselves at the end of the month at the Heptagonal Championships. However, Gallagher noted that Princeton is the favorite.
Despite this, he said the meet would be wide open for anyone to win.
“I think we’re definitely capable of being up there with the top teams,” Gallagher said.
Bogdan added, “We need to learn from this meet. We all realize we’re there fitness-wise. We just gotta pull it together on the 31st [for the Heptagonal Championships].”
He also said Columbia, Cornell and Dartmouth are performing well this year, and Princeton is not as dominant as it was last year.
For the women, Buck said the team hasn’t seen much Ivy League competition during the regular season, so they don’t know what to expect. Like Gallagher, she also believes that their race will be wide open for anyone to win. However, they will be up against perennial favorite Princeton, which is the only nationally ranked Ivy League school.
On September 29th of this year, the men’s team lost to Harvard 36-21. The women’s team lost to Harvard and Princeton at the same meet, scoring 71 points to Harvard’s 53 and Princeton’s 15.