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Cross country coach Steve Dolan must contend with a fall season schedule devoid of home meets for the Quakers.

In almost any sport, if you spend the fewest minutes on the field of anyone on the team, it makes you a scrub or a benchwarmer, monikers to which athletes have never taken a liking.

In cross country, though, this same condition makes you something different entirely: a star.

It only makes sense, then, that Penn cross country would apply this same brand of less-is-more reverse logic in its scheduling process, as the team has the fewest scheduled games of any Penn fall sport.

Although the team currently has eight meets listed on its schedule, the average runner will probably compete in fewer than eight.

With meets scheduled in South Bend, Ind. and Bethlehem, Pa. on consecutive days, runners will likely be relegated to one or the other. Additionally, only a select group of runners will compete in the season’s final meet at Nationals, depending on individual and team results.

Thus, a healthy Penn runner can expect to compete in at most six races this fall. By comparison, Penn football and sprint football — sports more well known for their physicality — have 10 and eight games scheduled respectively.

Penn cross country team also has a unique schedule in another sense: due to the campus’ lack of running-friendly real estate, it is the only fall sport without a scheduled competition at home.

The closest the Red and Blue will come to a home meet will be in their first meet of the season, this Friday’s Big 5 Invitational at nearby Belmont Plateau.

From that point forward, the Quakers will compete exclusively out of the city.

However, travel will not be too much of an issue for them. Apart from trips to Indiana for the Notre Dame Invitational and the NCAA Championships for a select group of runners, the team will only have to travel out of state as far as Princeton, N.J.

The schedule has remained relatively static from this year to that, with one notable change: the replacement of Pre-Nationals with the Notre Dame Invitational on Oct. 3.

This addition should provide elite competition for Penn’s top runners — including junior Thomas Awad and sophomore Cleo Whiting — earlier in the year than Penn’s schedule allowed for last year.

As is always the case for cross country, the Ivy League standings are entirely determined by the Heptagonal Championships, a meet followed directly by NCAA Regionals and Nationals. As a result, the meets preceding will be viewed largely for team and individual development, but not necessarily success.

Heptagonals will not be run until the beginning of November, but between training and negotiating its unique schedule, Penn cross country should have plenty to do until then. 

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