On a busy weekend for Penn athletics in general, cross country in particular had a lot on its hands.
The program started off its busy weekend against tough national competition during Friday’s Notre Dame Invitational, in which Penn’s top men placed 15th out of 24 and the top women placed 18th out of 20.
The Red and Blue sent a much younger group to Saturday’s Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh. The men came in 29th out of 42.
On Friday, Penn’s star junior Thomas Awad was his ordinary extraordinary self, posting a five-mile time of 23:26.7 in South Bend to finish fourth overall and tops among Ivy runners.
“He ran outstanding,” coach Steve Dolan said. “The guy was running with a number of guys who are returning All-Americans, and he ran extremely well to finish fourth in that field.”
Sophomore Brendan Shearn also put on a solid showing, placing 62nd overall with a time of 24:18.9. despite falling early in the race.
“He got knocked down early and didn’t get a very good position,” Dolan said. “That happens in cross country, it’s a part of the sport. He actually passed quite a few people throughout the duration of the race.”
Fellow sophomores Nicholas Tuck (103rd) and Lyle Wistar (111th) finished just outside the top 100. Meanwhile, freshman Ross Wilson turned in a respectable time of 24:46.6.
“It was his first 8K,” Dolan said of Wilson. “I think he did a nice job ,and he’s another guy who could make a big push over the next six weeks as he gets more experience.”
For the women, sophomore Ashley Montgomery led the way in Notre Dame with a 5K time of 17:10.8, good for 56th overall. Junior Amy Darlington was right on her heels, placing 66th with a time of 17:14.6. Dolan raved about both runners after the meet.
“Ashley Montgomery had an outstanding race, that might have been her best collegiate cross country race,” he said. “And that was an excellent race for Amy, she was our second runner in, she’s a team captain, and she has come a really long way in the last year.”
Junior Elyssa Gensib was the third Quakers runner to crack the top 100, placing 73rd with a solid time of 17:17.0, and sophomore Clarissa Whiting was close to making it four, coming in 111th with a time of 17:40.8. Freshmen Abby Hong and Kylene Cochrane were strong as well.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, freshman Brendan Smith (70th overall, 11th Ivy) led the way with a time of 24:57.
Dolan noted that Smith, who didn’t travel to South Bend due to an academic commitment, should be in for bigger things in the near future.
“Brendan was our first guy in, we’ll look for him to be a big contributor as the season goes on,” he said.
The women didn’t have enough runners to place as a team, but freshman Hailey Dougherty (29th, 22:30), junior Shannon McCarthy (34th, 22:38) and freshman Sophie Debode (40th, 22:41) gave the Quakers a trio of runners in the top 50.
Dolan thought it was an encouraging performance in a very competitive set of meets, but noted that there is much work to be done.
“There’s a couple of teams that have to be favorites at this point, and we wouldn’t be amongst that group at this stage, so we’re hoping we can have a big last month and challenge those teams at the top of the league,” he said.
The Quakers will certainly need a solid finish, and their next big test isn’t too far away, as they will head to New Jersey for the Princeton Invitational in two weekends.
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