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A week ago, the Penn women's cross country team ran one of its best races in recent memory, winning its first meet in almost three years at the Delaware Invitational. It would be the only bright spot of the season, right? Wrong. With a very low score of 26, Penn outpaced host Rutgers by 28 points to win the Rutgers Invitational on Saturday. It was the Quakers' second straight win. "I was extremely excited that we ran so well as a pack," Penn distance coach Cricket Batz-Shaklee said. "We are really working together as a team." Indeed, the top five Penn runners finished only 43 seconds apart. Junior Samantha Desposito finished second in the five-kilometer race in a time of 18:23, 33 seconds behind winner Julie Culley of Rutgers. Desposito outsprinted a Manhattan runner to the finish. They were neck and neck the entire race. Behind Desposito for Penn were freshman Vanita Spagnolo, freshman Abbi Gleeson and sophomore Kristen Koch. They finished fourth through sixth, respectively. Batz-Shaklee was incredibly impressed with the ninth-place finish of senior captain Meredith Rossner. "I am confident she can really run well for us," Batz-Shaklee said. While Rossner has plenty of experience, Saturday was the first race for Penn freshman Caitlin Driscoll, a former figure skater. Initially, the coaches held Driscoll back because of her lack of cross country experience. On Saturday, however, Batz-Shaklee said she looked very good, placing seventh among the Quakers. Batz-Shaklee thinks Driscoll will run well for the rest of the season. The 5K course at Rutgers, a one-time change back from the new 6K distance, did not hurt the Quakers, who did nothing different to prepare for the course. "The course was very fast and flat," said freshman Cristen Butler, who finished sixth on the team. "It was a lot different, but obviously we handled it well." For a team that in the past few years has had more than its share of disappointing finishes and heartbreaks, this quick turnaround is very welcome. The inexperienced, young group of runners has banded together and is making surprising strides so far in its 2000 campaign. Coming into the season, the Quakers had not won a meet since the 1997 Lafayette Invitational. "I did not know what to expect," Batz-Shaklee said. "But we really came together as a team. It's nice when you get a big incoming class." Penn will now get a much-needed week off. The upcoming weeks will be tougher for the Red and Blue. Their next race is October 7 at the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, Pa. "Next month will be very difficult, with tougher competition," Batz-Shaklee said. "But we're preparing for it." For now, however, the Quakers can sit back and enjoy something they haven't had in a very long time -- a winning streak.

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