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Sophomore Ryan Renken and the rest of Penn cross country hope to continue their local dominance this Friday at Haverford's Main Line Invitational.

Credit: Zach Sheldon

Another competition is another opportunity to keep moving in the right direction.

This Friday, Penn men’s and women’s cross country will travel to nearby Haverford College to compete in the Main Line Invitational, an early-season race that the Quakers have regularly competed in. This year, Penn will compete against athletes from in-state rivals such as Villanova and Lehigh.

Coming off a successful outing two weeks ago at the season-opening Bison Open, the Red and Blue will look to carry the positive momentum into this week’s competition.

The teams from Penn each routed their opposition at Bucknell, with five runners from the men’s team and seven from the women’s side placing in the top 10 of their respective races.

“I thought it was a really good start,” coach Steve Dolan said. “We’d only been practicing for a week at campus, so it was nice that we were able to pack together and run well.”

The Main Line Invitational will also serve as a warm-up for the key part of the season.

“It’s nice to do a couple of smaller meets and then move to bigger invitationals with really talented teams, so I think these will help us going forward,” senior Marin Warner said.

Warner was among the large group of Penn runners that finished at the front of the previous race; another such performance would bring the Quakers even more success.

The underclassmen are the ones to watch on the men’s side, as the sophomore trio of Anthony Russo, Ryan Renken, and Daniel Cohen all placed in the top five two weeks ago. The balance of strong veterans and newcomers is one of the team’s strongest assets.

“It’s always an important mix: the underclassmen set the tone with their experience and leadership, and it’s great to have younger runners who bring that enthusiasm to the team,” Dolan said.

Since the opening meet, the team has continued to work hard and improve. Both sides showed a strong ability to group up well and run together, but there is always room to get better.

“This race we’re gonna try to work together,” Warner said. “Our biggest competition is Villanova, so we’re gonna get as many girls to the front as we can and see how we can do against them.”

At last year’s Main Line, the Wildcats came close but could not edge out the Penn men, with the Quakers finishing with seven of the top 10 runners. On the other side, the women took second behind Villanova despite then-senior Abby Hong’s second-place finish.

Despite losing Hong and other seniors to graduation, both teams still believe they can return to Philadelphia on top.

“We’ve had a couple good weeks of training,” Dolan said. “Our goal is to get better every two weeks and I think we’re off to a good start, so we’re looking forward to taking another step.”

If the teams stick to their training and run together as a group just like two weeks ago, this Friday will be another early sign for a great season ahead.