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For those of you at Penn who have been coughing, sniffling and wheezing this week, your men's cross country team can more than sympathize. The same ailments, along with a little fatigue thrown into the mix, virtually wiped out Penn this past weekend at the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh. With the notable exception of senior Bryan Kovalsky, whose inspiring performance brought him a fifth-place finish, many of Penn's best runners sat this one out. And considering that the Quakers are about to embark on their season's stretch run, it was a smart move on the part of Penn coach Charlie Powell not to let them run. Penn junior Anthony Ragucci came down with a cold last week after a great run that netted him fourth place at the La Salle Invitational and was unable to run in Bethlehem, Pa. Anthony Sager also had a good race last weekend, coming in 10th place, but by last Thursday he was sick as well. But according to Powell, things could have been worse. "We dodged the bullet in that it turns out Ragucci doesn't have strep throat," he said. Although Penn junior Matt Gioffre was feeling well enough to make the start at Paul Short, he wasn't in top form on Saturday, crossing the line in 21st place. "Matt Gioffre should have been in the top 10," Powell said. "But he was feeling tired and couldn't break out of it." Powell made the call not to run Ragucci and Sager, first to protect the health of two of his best runners, and second to make sure that neither ran a race against top-flight competition that would hurt Penn's regional and national rankings. "We didn't want to go in there and have to run a OB' team against OA' competition," Powell said. The field at Lehigh included a very strong Michigan State team and Heptagonal rivals Cornell and Navy. The day's saving grace was Kovalsky's top-five performance. Always a strong presence for the Quakers last season, but often outshone by star seniors Sean MacMillan and Scott Clayton, Kovalsky has really come into his own this year. "Every now and then an athlete has to prove to himself how good he is," said Powell of Kovalsky. On Saturday, Kovalsky gave himself and his team all the proof anyone could need of his capabilities. First-place Michigan State is one of the top teams in the country, and Kovalsky beat out every one of its runners. Powell has even more reason to look forward to the Lafayette Invitational next weekend. There, he hopes it will be a healthy and well-rested Penn team that will face one of its biggest rivals, Princeton, the reigning Heps champion.

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