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This weekend, the Penn women's cross country team felt that it could have done better. Last year, the Quakers would have been celebrating this finish. It just goes to show how far the Red and Blue have come in such a short time. Depleted by injuries, the Quakers finished third on Saturday at the Lafayette Invitational with a score of 93 points. It was the fourth time they placed in the top three this year. Penn followed St. Joseph's and Richmond in the team scoring. Two of the Quakers' top runners were out this week. Penn junior Sam Desposito was held out because of tightness in her hamstring, while freshman Vanita Spagnolo started but did not finish the race because of breathing problems. Among those who did run, Abbi Gleeson, a freshman, placed fourth with a time of 21 minutes and 53 seconds. "Abbi Gleeson was the story," Penn distance coach Crickett Batz-Shaklee said. Gleeson's time marked an improvement of 40 seconds since the last time the Quakers raced at Lafayette, during the first meet of the season. "It was awesome," Gleeson said. "I ran really well." While it was a great race for Gleeson, Penn sophomore Kristin Koch did not have her best outing, finishing 16th. Koch ran the course in 22:24. She led Penn with a 22:06 run in September. "It wasn't a good race," Koch stated bluntly. "I had foot problems." Among the Quakers, freshman Cristen Butler followed Koch, finishing in 22nd place with a time of 22:36. Senior Meridith Rossner followed four seconds behind in 23rd. Freshman Erin Okawa rounded out the Penn top five with a 28th-place finish in a time of 22:48. Batz-Shaklee was extremely pleased with Okawa's performance. "She was a minute and a half better [than in September]," Batz-Shaklee said. "She has put herself solidly in the top seven." Despite some of these solid performances, the Quakers did not perform up to their own expectations. The team was hoping to be closer to St. Joe's and thought they should have beaten the Spiders. The Quakers have a week off before travelling to the Heptagonal Championships at Van Cortlandt Park, in the Bronx. "For the team, Saturday wasn't our best race," Gleeson said. "But with next weekend off, we'll heal from our injuries and should place well at Heps." Koch was a little more direct. "We're not going to be the doormat of the Ivies," Koch said. Batz-Shaklee is optimistic for the Quakers' performance at Heps. She thinks the team will recover in time and will improve on last year's disappointing last-place finish. The Red and Blue will be tapering -- running shorter speed workouts -- over the next two weeks to prepare for Heps. "We obviously have to do better than last year," Koch said. "We want to be taken seriously."

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