What difference does an extra few thousand meters make? Evidently not much: the Quakers seemed unfazed as the distance ramped up at Lehigh in longest race they’ve seen so far this year.
Both men’s and women’s cross country had powerful finishes Saturday at the Paul Short Invitational. With the women tying for third place and the men securing fourth, the Quakers proved that they were more than ready for both the heightened competition and the longer races of the regular season.
Though Penn women and men were ranked an impressive 22nd and 26th, respectively, in this past week’s nationwide USTFCCCA poll, this weekend’s meet was the Quakers’ first legitimate opportunity to prove themselves against a large, nationally competitive field of runners.
And they certainly did. Both teams’ top five performances were accompanied by numerous notable individual finishes.
On the women’s side, an impressive 20:12 time in the 6-kilometer race by Ashley Montgomery earned her a second-place overall finish among a field of over 400. The Whiting sisters also cracked the top 25, with Cleo finishing 19th and Clarissa 21st, as only Brown senior Taylor Worthy split the less-than-three-second gap between them.
Only Yale and Georgetown were able to top Penn in the team rankings, while West Virginia and the Quakers tied with 127 point each.
The men were led by a commanding run from senior Nick Tuck, who was able to break into the top 10 with his 23:52 8K time on Saturday. Brendan Shearn, also a senior, was only nine seconds behind, taking 17th place overall. Additionally, junior Chris Luciano ran a strong race, finishing right on the heels of sophomore Patrick Hally and just ahead of a slew of Ivy League competitors.
The men’s team, which scored 146 points, was topped by Iona, Georgetown and Adams State overall but managed to finish first of the Ivies, upsetting No. 25 Columbia, who finished fifth.
This was the first “long-distance” meet of the year, with the women upping their race from a 5K to a 6K and the men from a 5K to an 8K. This extension appeared to come as a blessing in disguise for the Quakers.
“I think our runners are pretty strong and we do a little better with the longer courses, so we kind of welcomed the distance,” Penn coach Steve Dolan said.
For the team’s youngest members, however, the longer distance can take some time to get used to.
“For freshmen it’s a big adjustment since in high school you don’t run these distances,” Dolan noted. “I think the freshmen will do better every time they run the longer races.”
Freshmen seemed to have mixed feelings about their first full-length collegiate meet.
“It was definitely a learning experience ... a shock to my system for sure,” Aaron Groff said.
Despite the transition, however, Groff ran a solid 8K in 24:54, which earned him a scoring spot in Penn’s top seven.
“It wasn’t as big of a transition as I would have expected,” Scranton, Pa., native Erin Feeney said of the women’s race’s 1,000m incremental rise. “In workouts at practice we’ve been doing 1,000 repeats a lot, and that definitely helped mentally.”
Feeney finished fourth for the Quakers and 36th overall with a 20:43 5K that put her only 31 seconds behind Ashley Montgomery and 46 seconds behind first place finisher Angel Piccirillo of Villanova.
Penn’s season will continue Oct. 14 at the Wisconsin Invitational in Madison. The season will culminate in the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships, which will be held Oct. 29 at Princeton.
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