This past weekend, our Lady Hoyas opened up the season at James Madison University with a dominating performance. With strict racing instructions from Coach Mike Smith, our women demonstrated that their national ranking is well-deserved. Some of our women were instructed to race the first mile hard to callous the mind and body to the harder races later in the season. The rest of the women were instructed to go out very easy to build momentum and confidence. Both groups executed the plan well and stayed tough at the end of the race. Senior Katrina Coogan went out hard and kept going to win the race by over 30 seconds. We feel Katrina now has the strength and experience to be racing with the front pack in this year’s NCAA meet. Andrea Keklak made a name for herself by finishing 4th in the 800 at the NCAA Indoor Championships. On Saturday, she showed she is also ready to be a major player this cross country season by finishing as our number two runner! Within 20 seconds of Andrea was Haley Pierce in 3rd, Annamarie Maag 5th and Kelsey Smith in 6th. Freshman Autumn Eastman finished in 8th and seems poised for a very nice season. Sam Nadel, our number one runner from last year’s NCAA 5th place team, did not race but should be ready by the time we get to the championship season.
Our men opened up at Penn State in classic cross country weather (cold and rainy) in State College. The pace was pedestrian the first four miles before sophomores Darren Fahy and Scott Carpenter put in a big surge with about a mile to go. I was very pleased with their aggressive tactics and think it will pay big dividends later in the season, but it was a bit too early of a move considering our hard training. Scott ended up finishing 5th, only a few seconds behind the winner, with Darren finishing 7th. We were disappointed to finish 3rd as a team, just seven points behind Penn State and one behind Syracuse. In the results are a couple hints of our potential for the season: Our top seven was comprised of three sophomores and three freshman; and our top 5 was all within 10 seconds. We will have to rely on a young group and a group that is more 800/1500 oriented on the track but they are training very well and we think that we will keep improving as the season progresses.
Before departing for Penn State, I attended the groundbreaking for the John R. Thompson Jr. Intercollegiate Athletics Center. I was especially pleased to see our former head track coach, Joe Lang, and former athletic director, Frank Rienzo, in attendance. All of the speakers did a great job, but I have to admit I was most interested in Frank Rienzo’s talk. Even though this groundbreaking symbolizes the start of construction of a much needed facility upgrade, we still need to remember that all of your gifts and support, large and small, provide the means to provide a great experience for our current student-athletes.