The Penn men's cross country team's big guns may have blown away the competition this weekend at the La Salle Invitational. They may also have surprised those who ranked Penn third going into the meet by recording a repeat, first-place performance at the Delaware Invitational. Still, you won't find anyone on this team celebrating. It seems no one wants to get too comfortable with a winning streak. "It's just one stepping stone for us, but we're not really riding on it," said Penn junior Anthony Ragucci, who finished fourth. "We put it behind us and were back to work on Sunday." The attitude is understandable. The Quakers still have the meat of their schedule ahead of them. Even though Villanova is ranked No. 20 nationally, and Penn did defy the odds of a Mid-Atlantic poll which predicted they would come in behind Villanova and La Salle, Penn coach Charlie Powell can't dote on the win's significance. "It's just part of the plan," he said. Powell is looking forward to stiffer competition coming up next Saturday, at the Paul Short Invitational, with an eye to the future that has apparently rubbed off on his team. "Next weekend, we'll face 37 or 38 teams, four or five of which are nationally ranked," Powell said. But Powell won't be intimidated by what lies ahead. "The key right now is racing with confidence and knowledge," he said. As for predicting next week's results, he seems ready to let the team take care of itself. "See if we go in there with the same confidence as this weekend," Powell said. So the competition was not the fiercest, and the uphill battle still lies ahead at the end of October, but the weekend is still a notch in the bedpost for Penn's top runners. The Quakers took three of the top five spots at the race, led by senior Bryan Kovalsky, who came in second with a time of 25 minutes, nine seconds. Following in third and fourth place were juniors Matt Gioffre and Ragucci. Andy Kish had a solid performance and came in eighth with a time of 25:35. Anthony Sager was not far behind, coming in 10th in a field that was 58 strong. According to Powell, "Bryan broke the race right open around the two-mile mark." Kovalsky's leadership spurred on his running mates. Gioffre and Ragucci were right behind him, earning Penn the respect it deserved at the Belmont Plateau for the second year in a row. But the difference this time around is bigger than the team's front-runners. "The difference between this year and last year is that our No. 3, 4 and 5 guys are stronger. Last year it was more of an individual thing. This year, we worked together," said Ragucci, who is nursing a 102-degree fever right now. In six days the Quakers will find out if all the hard practice and teamwork will carry them through to the next level.Comments powered by Disqus
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