Sports

Bruno faces hurdles at national meet

By
Sports Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

 

The cross country team struggled in a nationally competitive field at the Adidas Invitational last Friday, as the men finished second to last in a field of 45 and the women 26th of 49. At the meet, hosted by the University of Wisconsin, perennial cross country powerhouse Stanford University won the men’s race, and Iowa State University dominated on the women’s side.

“Any team that is putting any real effort into the sport is at one of the two big meets this weekend,” said Mitchell Baker, head coach of the women’s cross country team. “If we want to be a national level team, we have to be at one of these meets every year.”

Conor Grogan ’13 led the men and finished the eight-kilometer course in 23 minutes, 33 seconds, placing 164th overall.

“It was kind of pretty bitter just crossing the line,” Grogan said. “I felt like I gave a pretty decent performance individually, but it didn’t necessarily result in the kind of finish I wanted for the team.”

The next two runners to finish for Bruno were Jeff Bush ’14 and Brendan Boyle ’14, who finished 260th and 273rd with times of 25:22 and 25:30, respectively. The last two competitors to score for the Bears were Austin Snyder ’13 and Colin Savage ’14, who crossed the line with respective times of 25:37 and 25:43.

“It wasn’t a successful race for us. I think that we just didn’t respond to the challenging racing situation that was presented to us,” said Tim Springfield, head coach of the men’s cross country team. “The quality of this field is very close to the championships – 20 of the top teams in the field were there.”

Springfield added that the field was very large, with 316 runners competing in the race. Grogan explained that the size of the field “buried” them, with most of the team behind at least 200 other runners at the mile mark.

“It’s hard to crawl past people,” Grogan said. “It really hinders your ability to run the second half of the race.”

The size of the field contributed to the large split, nearly 1:10, between the first and fifth runners to finish for Bruno. The time gap between a team’s first runner to finish and the team’s fifth is a common metric of success in cross country, and Springfield has said that keeping a low split is the key to success for the team.

“It is very difficult to maintain a level of relaxation when the field is that thick and dense,” Springfield said. “It’s very rough – you can’t position yourself where you want to be positioned.”

The championship meets at the end of the cross country season are the most important in determining whether teams will qualify for nationals. The Bears are usually a team that performs well towards the end of the season, Grogan said, and he cautioned against “counting us out.”

“The meet was not at all a reflection of our level of fitness,” Springfield said. “This meet is far and away the most difficult meet that we will face.”

The women fared better than the men, led by Heidi Caldwell ’14, who covered the 6k course in 20:33 to finish 57th overall. Olivia Mickle ’13 and Margaret Connelly ’14 finished soon after in quick succession, with respective times of 20:40 and 20:41.

“We knew it was going to be a really big race, but once the gun went off it was amazing how many people were around us and running really fast,” Caldwell said. “It was a good experience and I think it will help us in the future.”

The top three women did well running as a pack and working together at this weekend’s meet, Baker said. He added the same was true for the four women who finished farther back. Continuing to pull together during a race will make it easier for any two runners to “step up on a given day,” he added. Clocking 21:28 and 21:29, Leah Eickhoff ’15 and Bree Shugarts ’13 were the two runners who stepped up to finish fourth and fifth at Wisconsin.

“It was a solid race, but I know that we have a couple of notches higher that we can run,” Baker said. “I can say that no one ran badly, but no one ran the best race that I’ve seen them run either.”

In such a competitive environment, it is easy to be intimidated by the other nationally ranked teams, Baker said. But the women “handled the intensity pretty well,” and were confident they could race with top teams, he said. He added that their performance leaves room for the team to grow in the remaining weeks of the regular season.

“I think in a month from now we can beat a few more teams that are in our region,” Baker said.

The Bears will next compete Friday at their only home meet of the season, the Rothenberg Run. Some of the developing athletes will get an opportunity to compete at this meet, Baker said. This will be the last regular meet of the season, after which the Bears will go on to compete at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, hosted by Princeton Oct. 27.

“It wasn’t a very pleasant learning experience. This is the level we want to compete at, so we need to stick our nose in there,” Springfield said. “We got slapped around a little bit, so it was good in that sense, learning what this level feels like, giving us a very challenging experience that will help us down the road.”

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