Sports

Bears finish first at Iona meet

By
Sports Staff Writer
Monday, September 17, 2012

The men’s cross country team competed at the Iona Meet of Champions in New York City’s Van Cortlandt Park this Saturday after the season opener two weekends ago at the Nassaney Invitational. The women, who only competed at Nassaney – a meet hosted by Bryant University – captured a fourth-place team finish, while the men were ineligible to score as a team as only four of five starting runners crossed the finish line. The men’s squad had a stronger performance at Iona, where they finished first among 14 teams. 

“It was an opportunity for our developing athletes to compete and race against competition that lined up against their ability,” said women’s cross country Head Coach Mitchell Baker.

Elaine Kuckertz ’13 led the women at Nassaney and placed 10th overall in the 5-kilometer race with a time of 18 minutes, 36 seconds. Charlotte Walmsley ’16 finished two spots behind Kuckertz in 18 minutes 42 seconds. Finishing 18 seconds and nine spots later was Elizabeth Ryan ’13.

Strategically, the women planned to race conservatively in the first mile, sticking together in a pack during the second and kicking it into top gear during the final mile, Baker said. He added that this strategy was a relatively “simple one” and that “the style of the course and the level of the athlete” has an impact on racing. 

The women did not plan to run at Iona, choosing to hold off “running our top group until Paul Short,” a meet Baker described as “the dry run” for the Adidas Invitational Oct. 12. Hosted by the University of Wisconsin, this meet will be the biggest challenge of the year, as the Bears will compete against the top 40 national programs. 

At Nassaney, Ben Stephenson ’13 was the top finisher for the men, ninth overall, and covered the 8-kilometer course in 26 minutes 1 second. Will Sheeran ’16 was the next runner to finish for Bruno and captured 13th overall in 26 minutes 17 seconds. In what would have been a photo finish, Kyler Evitt ’14 beat Will Conway ’16 by a split second and the two finished 18th and 19th overall, respectively. 

Stephenson did a good job of “leading the young group” that was composed of freshmen that had never before raced an 8k, said men’s cross country Head Coach Tim Springfield. In high school competition, men only participate in 5k races.

“The 5k and 8k are both hard races. One is at a faster pace for shorter, and one is at a slower pace for longer,” Springfield said. “The bigger challenge is not physical – but to concentrate for that long.”

At Iona, a different group of runners competed for the men and were led by co-captain Kevin Cooper ’13, who finished the 8k course in 25 minutes 36 seconds for sixth place overall. He was followed in quick succession by Erik Berg ’13 who finished seventh in 25 minutes 40 seconds, Colin Savage ’14 who captured ninth in 25 minutes 48 seconds and co-captain Conor Grogan ’13 who finished two seconds later in 10th. The final member of the team to score was Brendan Boyle ’14, who finished 17th overall with a time of 26 minutes 5 seconds.

The men all ran faster than in their previous efforts on the course. Savage also set a personal record and “raced where he has been training this year,” Springfield said.

“I wanted us to be successful in terms of positioning ourselves properly and keeping the pack together,” Springfield said. “When they added up the score, we won, but our focus was on our execution.”

A key part of the men’s strategy this year is to run in tight packs so the gap between the first and fifth finisher is small. The men took a step in the right direction as they posted a spread of 29 seconds at Iona, but it should be even lower, Springfield said. 

Looking ahead where both the “number and quality” of competing teams “are going to go way up,” the challenge for the men will be to “execute the same kind of thing in a much more demanding environment,” Springfield said. “I told the guys afterwards that it was a nice start, but we aren’t where we need to be at the end of the season,” he said. “But, that’s okay because we’re not at the end of the season yet, and we have a lot of work to do.”

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