The men and women of Penn cross country are off and running at a record-setting pace.
After an outstanding performance at last week’s Big 5 Invitational, in which the Quakers took six of the top seven spots in the women’s race and the top seven in the men’s, the Red and the Blue are ready to follow up their success Thursday at the Main Line Invitational.
Freshman Abby Hong , who placed first in the Big 5 four-kilometer race with a time of 14:21.5, is looking forward to competing against many local rivals including Villanova, La Salle, Saint Joe’s, Lehigh, Swarthmore, Widener and host Haverford.
“The Villanova women are coming,” she said. “They’re one of the nationally ranked teams, so it’s definitely going to be good competition up front.”
Although Villanova fielded a small men’s team for the Big 5 Invitational last week,it did not send a women’s team.
The 13th- ranked Wildcats will certainly be steep competition, but Hong believes that the Quakers can be successful if they stick to their game plan.
“We are going to focus on doing our own race. Coach [Steve] Dolan has a plan for what all our girls are going to do, so it’ll be a good race,” she said.
As for specific strategies for the women’s three-mile course, Hong says the team has been working on sticking together while increasing their pace, specifically at the beginning of the race.
“For this meet, our front group is going to go through the first mile and a half together in a pack,” she said. “We are going to go out slightly faster than we did last week. Last week, we went out at about a 5:50-mile pace. This week we are aiming for about a 5:40 to be a little more competitive and get in to the feel of what it’s going to be like for the bigger races.”
Because both the men and women were able to practice on the course this week, Hong feels confident that the team is poised to perform well yet again.
However, one challenge the Quakers face Thursday is a serious threat of rain. With a 60 percent chance of precipitation and up to 15 mph winds, weather could play a factor in the race especially considering the course is primarily grass.
Rain or shine, Hong says the team will be ready.
“I think last week was definitely a confidence booster because the whole team was able to run together,” she said. “I just want to go out there and contribute to the team.”
And after only one collegiate race, Hong certainly has made a significant impact. Undoubtedly, both she and the young and talented squad have very bright futures ahead, and the Main Line Invitational is just the next step in a long journey.
After a late arrival to the Invitational last year, which gave the women’s team only 10 minutes to warm up , the team has confirmed the starting time of this year’s event and is planning their trip to Haverford accordingly.
After all, if you’re going to keep up a record-setting pace, you can’t afford to start late.
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