The Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams competed in the Blue Jay Alumni Challenge this past Saturday, September 12. Coming off a Landmark Conference Championship after last season, the women were looking to continue their run of form in the new season, which they indeed did. Four out of the top-five finishers were current Blue Jay runners, with only one alumnus, Taryn Shank, beating out the current Jays as she finished in second place.
Lydia Dearie, the first place finisher with a time of 16:03.36, had this to say about the team’s performance: “I feel the team ran extremely well for the conditions. We had a really tough workout Thursday afternoon and also ran a quick-paced tempo run on the track directly before the race,” she explained. “We pushed ourselves to our limits, ran our hardest, and ran as a team.” It would be easy for this team to rest on their laurels of a conference championship (their eighth in a row), and to fall into complacency; but not-so, Dearie explains. “I feel that our chances of winning the Landmark again is very strong. However, we need to continue to put in the effort everyday in order to get the results we are striving for. We are continuing to focus on our training as individuals and as a team. If we work to make ourselves better and to compete to the best of our ability, we will not have to worry about what others are doing.” She also said she didn’t want to jinx anything by being so candid about their chances, but if this team keeps doing what they’ve been doing for so long, they need not worry. Junior runner Casey Quinto shares the sentiment in regard to hard work winning out, when she said of the heightened expectations of this team: “We deal with [the heightened expectations] by focusing on ourselves, and the day to day training – if we do everything right in practice, and work together and believe in each other, then the results at the end of the season will take care of themselves.”
The men’s team proved to be just as dominant as the women this weekend, sweeping the podium and placing four current Jays in the top five, and seven in the top ten. Senior Zach Trama finished first for the second straight year, with his time of 20:50.51 on the six-kilometer campus course. “We were missing a few guys, but regardless I think we ran well as a team,” Trama says on their performance. “Any one runner is equally important as any other. Our last guy pushes the next guy, and he pushes the guy in front of him, and so on. When championship season comes around we will only be able to race our top 15 at Landmarks and top 7 at Regionals and Nationals, so in the meantime we are trying to focus on running races in packs.” This strategy seems to have been a winning one for the Blue Jays, as they have sustained this success for years now, and on their way to a Landmark Championship last season. “We are essentially returning our entire team from last year that won Landmarks (Dan Gresh graduated but we get Matt Shenk back from abroad). We definitely have targets on our backs this year,” Trama said of their pressure to repeat. “The expectation to repeat as conference champions hasn’t changed what we do in practice, though. It is expected that we will win the conference title, but we also have the Regional meet to focus on. Last year we were the underdogs in the conference, and this year we are the underdogs in the region. It is the same boat but on a larger scale, and I think this group of guys thrives in that position.”
As for what head coach Brian Falk had to say about both his men’s and women’s teams, Dearie and Trama shared his outlook toward the task at hand, and the message he conveyed to both teams: “The goal is to be better than we were at the last race.”