On paper, one might be duped into thinking that Penn cross country had a fairly average weekend.
At Friday’s Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational, the men’s side came in 24th of 35 total teams, and the women placed 31st from a pool of 33. Saturday’s Princeton Invitational saw the Quakers finish in seventh of 21 teams on the men’s side and ninth on the women’s of 20.
Average, right? Far from it.
The former? A demonstration of talent. The latter? A demonstration of depth.
Simply put, the Wisconsin Invitational was stacked. The men’s field was a who’s who of national powerhouses, with No. 1 Northern Arizona, No. 3 Syracuse, and No. 4 Stanford headlining the event. In fact, 20 of the 35 teams in the field were ranked in the top-30 nationally. The women’s field was similarly brimming with quality, with nearly half of the field ranked in the top-30.
The Quakers stood their ground.
The men finished above No. 16 Illinois, No. 18 Virginia and, perhaps most importantly, No. 30 Columbia. The women may not have had a result quite as strong as the men, but top-100 finishes from freshman phenom Danielle Orie and senior captain Abby Hong lifted the Red and Blue over Harvard, the defending Ivy League champions.
Junior Kevin Monogue led the way for the men, placing 69th overall. He saw the team’s result as a big step in the right direction for Penn cross country.
“It definitely means a lot. I think that’s definitely a big goal of the program in general, to be able to compete with anyone out there,” said Monogue.
Orie, who placed 65th in the field of over 200 women, could safely say that it was unlike anything she had ever competed in.
“It was an experience,” she recalled, laughing. “This is my second year of cross country, so coming into a race like this….I didn’t want to get too intimidated.”
The star runner felt that the women’s biggest takeaway from the weekend was that they were able to beat the Crimson with authority:
“We didn’t know if we’d be able to do that coming into the race — we just wanted to go out there and not get too overwhelmed — so being able to accomplish that was definitely a great feat for us.”
Those who did not take the trip to Wisconsin took a trip to Princeton, where the men and women both saw great success. Many of the athletes who competed at this meet are younger and less experienced, so for the team to perform so well demonstrates that the Red and Blue possess quality across the board.
And now, it gets serious.
The Wisconsin and Princeton Invitationals were the last competitive races the Quakers will compete in until the Ivy League Hepatagonal Championships, which are on October 27th. In the meantime, the men and women will be putting the final touches on their training, sharpening their strength and preparing mentally for the biggest meet of the year.
“It’s time to put it all together, get focused and make sure all the little things are right,” Monogue said.
Penn cross country has put itself in a great position for a full takeover of the Ivy League, and the results from the past weekend have imbued the team with an even greater sense of confidence.
“Coming from a race that has so much more of an energetic ambience and going to Heps now, we’re almost one leg ahead because we know what we’re capable of,” said Orie. “Racing a harder race like that…I think, sets us up for Heps amazingly.”