Teams usually find strength in numbers, but this weekend, Penn cross country is looking to divide and conquer.
Following a solid first place showing for both the men’s and women’s teams at the Big 5 Invitational last week, the Quakers are hoping to capitalize on their successes and prove themselves nationally at the Notre Dame and Paul Short invitationals, set for this Friday and Saturday respectively.
Coach Steve Dolan is excited about the weekend, which he sees as the first real challenge of the season.
“We circled this weekend on our calendars as the start of the big part of the season,” he said.
Both events will pose a different kind of challenge to the runners than they have faced thus far.
“There will be over 200 runners and over 20 schools in each field, so we will see lots of runners and a whole different dynamic,” he said. “It is going to be the first time this season that we are faced with fields of this size, depth and strength.”
About half of the runners will be heading to the Notre Dame Invitational slated for this Friday, where some of the more experienced runners will go up against some unfamiliar competition.
“There is going to be teams from the Midwest and some teams from the Mountain region, so we will see some familiar faces but a lot of teams we do not know a lot about,” he noted.
Senior John Trueman is eager to take on top caliber teams as a leader for Penn at the Notre Dame event.
“The end game is basically to beat a number of nationally ranked teams, and hopefully we will get a couple of points towards qualifying for the national meets,” he said.
“I think the main plan is just to run smart and rely on each other.”
Freshman Kylene Cochrane is also bound for the Notre Dame event. She is looking forward to showing that Penn is capable this season, as well as bonding with her teammates.
“It would be cool to show that we are no longer the underdogs,” she said. “I think it is amazing that I have this opportunity to travel with the team.”
Closer to Philadelphia, the other half of the team — consisting of mostly young runners — will be donning Red and Blue at Lehigh’s Paul Short Invitational.
“It will be an opportunity for especially freshmen to represent Penn without some of the upperclassmen,” Dolan explained.
The Paul Short Invitational will feature both local rivals and representatives of several other Ivy League schools and will provide a chance for the team to test the waters locally.
Freshman Thomas Connelly is looking forward to facing some of Penn’s traditional Ivy League rivals, and much like Cochrane, he is looking forward to the social side of the weekend.
“It will be exciting to see how we compare to the other Ivy League schools we will see more of later in the season,” he said. “Getting up early with the guys on the team is going to be exciting.”
One of Penn’s old rivals, Princeton, is looking strong after besting Harvard and Yale in mid-September and is also sending runners to both events.
“I think for the first time in a few years we are in a strong position to compete admirably with Princeton,” said Dolan, who coached the Tigers before coming to Penn.
“It will be fun to see how it comes out.”
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