Penn cross country beats the heat at Paul Short Invitational
Freshmen carry the day for Quakers
October 5, 2013, 11:27 pm·
The annual Paul Short Invitational, one of the East Coast’s largest cross-country races, is named in honor of a Lehigh athlete and sports administrator. But this year’s invitational was even shorter than usual.
On what was an otherwise beautiful fall day on Lehigh’s pristine cross-country course, unseasonably hot and muggy weather had runners dropping like flies. After the college-portion of the meet, the rest of the high school races were cancelled due to the unusual amount of medical issues experienced by the college runners.
However, the invitational lasted long enough for the Penn cross-country runners to face their first major test of the season.
The Quakers faced a daunting field, including nationally ranked teams like Indiana and Georgetown. Regardless, they went into the meet with high expectations.
The men’s team competed in the “gold division” race for the first time since its disappointing performance at the 2011 invitational. For the most part, the Red and Blue showed that they belonged, finishing 11th overall out of 47.
“I don’t think we had the dream run, but I was proud of us,” coach Steve Dolan said.
The men’s team was led by sophomore Thomas Awad, who finished first for the Quakers with a time of 24:33 for the 8K race. Following him were senior captain Conner Paez and sophomore Brendan Smith, who ran together and finished with times of 25:08 and 25:09, respectively.
Despite tough weather conditions and inexperience in 8K races, the men ran aggressively. But they were still able to feed off of each other to fight through the tough conditions.
“It does help a lot, in a race, having your teammates around you,” Awad said. “It’s nice seeing more stripes out there.”
“It’s not easy in that big of a field to run in a complete pack,” coach Dolan said. “But there was still a team running out there.”
The women’s team directly followed the men’s team, running in the “gold division” 6K race. With the sun even more unforgiving, the women labored toward a respectable 17th-place finish.
The women’s team was led by freshman Cleo Whiting, who posted an impressive time of 21:22. The rest of the top five ran in a relatively tight pack, all finishing between 21:53 and 22:09.
The Quakers used team running to get through the race in the tough conditions. Dolan acknowledged the effort but still sees room for potential improvement.
“We’re capable of going out a little faster … but I think we’re making progress,” he said.
The women clearly had to labor through increasingly brutal heat, but they left it all on the course nonetheless.
“It’s just something that we had to deal with,” Whiting said of the heat. “I think we’ll all be very glad when it gets a little colder.”
One common theme between the men’s and women’s teams was the impact made by the young runners. Freshmen across the board posted impressive results, including Nicholas Tuck and Brendan Shearn for the men and the Whiting sisters (Cleo and Clarissa), Ashley Montgomery and Madison Holleran for the women.
“Six out of [the men’s] top nine were sophomores and freshmen, which is pretty awesome,” Awad said.
“We’re very committed … and we’re all growing together so much,” Whiting said of the freshman girls.
Overall, they may not have achieved their ultimate goals, but both teams showed promise to improve in future races.
“The cross country season is like a race,” Dolan said. “You just want to finish strong.”
After all, the focus may be on Paul Short for the time being, but these teams are in it for the long haul.