Sports

Women’s team shines at Lehigh

By
Sports Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The cross country teams ended competition at Lehigh University this weekend with mixed results – the women finished 8th in a field of 40 and the men 14th of 37. The Paul Short Invitational was the Bears’ first major meet of the season. Though the women placed three runners in the top 20, the men did not give “a representative performance of where we are at our fitness level or racing ability,” said Tim Springfield, men’s cross country head coach and interim director of track and field and cross country.
This was the first meet of the year for the women at which their top runners competed. The women’s “fitness is far superior to where it was a year ago,” said women’s Head Coach Mitchell Baker.
“The majority of athletes ran much faster” than at last year’s race, he added.
“It was a good first effort and I am excited by all of the things we can improve,” Baker said. “I thought we executed a much higher percentage of the race plans than we have in the past.”
Co-captain Olivia Mickle ’13 led the women and finished the 6-kilometer course 11th overall in 20:37. Mickle, who set the school record in the 10,000-meter run in the spring, has continued to build off her success. She is now a “different level athlete than she was in the spring,” Baker said.
“I haven’t had success with cross country yet, so I felt more nervous than I’m used to, and I was glad to finish 11th,” Mickle said. “It gave me the confidence I think I need to perform well in later meets.”
The other two runners to finish in the top 20 were Margaret Connelly ’14 and Heidi Caldwell ’14 who finished in 20:54 and 20:57, respectively. Though the top three for Brown finished in quick succession, the last two scoring competitors were almost a minute behind Caldwell. One of the things that the women will work on during the next couple of weeks is “pack running”,  Mickle said, which means closing the gaps between the team’s runners so that they run as a team.
“I think the next step is getting people physically and mentally able to stick together,” Baker said. “Especially the chase pack behind our top three, we’ll be looking to really try to get them to gel and run together the whole time.”
Explaining the men’s disappointing performance, Springfield placed the responsibility on his own shoulders. “I didn’t have the team as prepared as we needed to be,” he said.
One bright spot for the men was the performance of co-captain Conor Grogan ’13, the first of the Bears to finish the 8k course in 24:55 and 46th place overall. Springfield said Grogan raced well and did a good job “leading the way” for his teammates.
“It was a step forward for me in terms of where I’m at as a runner,” Grogan said. “We were looking to place a lot higher. It’s kind of a wake-up call this early in the season.”
About 330 runners competed in the men’s race at Paul Short. In such a large field, “it’s really important to get off the line aggressively,” Grogan said, because a passive start makes it difficult to pass other runners later in the race.
“As a team, we need to have a more aggressive mindset early in the race,” Grogan said. “In the future, we’ll put more of an emphasis on running as a group in the early stages of a race.”
Kevin Cooper ’13 and Colin Savage ’14 were the next two runners to finish for Brown, and recorded times of 25:12 and 25:36, respectively. Jeff Bush ’14 and Brendan Boyle ’14 rounded out Bruno’s five scoring competitors. The spread, or time difference between the first and fifth runners to finish, was 51 seconds.
Springfield has emphasized that he believes a small split is the key to success, pointing to this meet’s large spread as a “big mistake.” Despite this race, the men will “almost automatically get better” to avoid another similar performance, Springfield said.
Both teams will send runners to compete at the New England Championship next weekend. The runners who race there will not compete at the Adidas Invitational hosted by the University of Wisconsin the following weekend.
Both Grogan and Mickle characterized the Adidas Invitational as “extremely competitive,” since many of the best teams in the country will be present.
“We need to be aggressive and not be intimidated by some of the higher-ranked teams,” Mickle said.

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