by Nick Fattori
The men’s and women’s cross country teams have had success in all their races this season. However, both teams took their performances to a whole new level while competing last Friday at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals at Penn State University.
The men’s team finished in second place, while the women’s team received third place.
Both races were held at Penn State’s Blue/White Golf Courses. The men ran a 10,000-meter race in the early afternoon, whereas the women raced 6,000 meters at noon.
The men’s team came into the weekend ranked third in the Mid-Atlantic rankings by USTFCCCA behind Princeton and Georgetown. The team was confident that they could top both teams and dethrone Georgetown, who has won four of the last five Mid-Atlantic titles.
The Wildcats did, indeed, surpass the Princeton Tigers, but it was not enough to dethrone the Hoyas. Georgetown barely edged the ’Cats by the smallest of margins by a score of 56 to 57, even though the ’Cats’ average time for each runner was 30:45 opposed to the Hoyas’ average time of 30:46.
“I was very pleased with the result, especially after the very poor showing at the Big East Championship,” said men’s Head Coach Marcus O’Sullivan. “I knew it was going to be a challenge to finish in the top two. We would have not been selected for the tournament if we didn’t finish in the top two.”
Although ‘Nova had two of the top four finishers in the race—sophomore Sam McEntee and freshman Jordan Williamsz—and both finished ahead of Georgetown’s top runner, junior Andrew Springer, ’Nova’s overall consistency was just not good enough to squeak past Georgetown.
The women’s team also came into the week ranked third in the Mid-Atlantic rankings behind Penn State and Georgetown. However, unlike the men’s team, they were not able to overtake either of the teams ahead of them. The ’Cats finished a distant third with 96 points behind champion and host Penn State, who had 61 points, and Georgetown, who had 63 points.
’Nova’s top runner, junior Nicky Akande, finished as the winner of the race with a time of 20:14, while junior Emily Lipari finished in third place. However, after Akande and Lipari, their remaining teammates finished in 14th, 33rd and 45th place, respectively, which prevented them from having a shot at the title.
With the second place finish, the men’s team secured a place at the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Ky., this upcoming Saturday. The top two teams from each regional meet around the country earn automatic berths to the championship.
“I am optimistic that we can do well and finish in the top 15 next week,” O’Sullivan said. “The course is flat, which is better for our top four runners, who are all ‘milers’ and do better on a flatter surface.”
Although the women’s team just missed out on the automatic berth, it was still selected as an at-large team in the tournament because of the good results it had over the course of the season and its No. 25 in the national polls. The NCAA selection committee selected 13 teams as at-larges for the tournament.
With these strong performances, both squads should be proud of their work, and that confidence should only help them as they now look to battle the top teams in the country on Saturday.