The Red and Blue have now officially entered championship season.
In their last tuneup before the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship, the Penn men’s and women’s cross country teams competed against nationally ranked teams at the Penn State National Open in State College, Pa. The men performed well against a highly competitive field, placing seventh out of 21 teams, and the women also held their own, finishing 17 out of 28.
The men’s team boasted four runners who finished in the top 50 in the 5.2-mile run, quite an accomplishment given the talent and depth of the other teams at the event. They collected 232 points, good for seventh place and just a single point behind powerhouse North Carolina. Fellow ACC member Virginia took first with 66 total points. The Red and Blue went head to head with two other Ivy League competitors at Penn State and topped them both. Dartmouth finished ninth with 245 points, and Brown finished 19th with 466 points.
Junior Aaron Groff continued his rise through the ranks right before Heps, finishing first for the Quakers and 32nd overall with a time of 25:42. Sophomore Anthony Russo was right behind him, finishing 34th overall and second for Penn. Third for the Red and Blue was senior Sam Webb, finishing 39th overall.
“This weekend was a huge step forward for us as a team from top to bottom. The season prior to Penn State had been pretty frustrating as we’ve been performing under our potential and riddled with injuries, so I really think Friday’s result is a testament to the resiliency of our group," Groff said. “Though it definitely wasn’t a 10/10 run, we fully believe now that our goals of winning a Heps title and qualifying for the national championship are in reach."
As for the women, they completed the 6,000-meters with four runners placing within the first 100 spots. Junior Maddie Villalba was Penn's fastest runner for the third time this season, and placed 58th overall with a time of 21:33. The next runner to cross the line for the Quakers was freshman Annie Zimmer with a time of 21:42, which put her at 73rd overall. Third and fourth for the Red and Blue were sophomores Danielle Orie and Melissa Tanaka, who finished 84th and 96th overall, respectively.
Among the five Ivy League women’s teams who competed, Penn finished fourth with 423 points, only beating Cornell by 18 points. Princeton took fourth overall, with Dartmouth trailing behind by just four points in fifth and Brown finishing in seventh place.
This race was a good gauge to see where the Quakers stood among not only nationally ranked competitions, but also tough Ivy League competitors, especially before Ivy Heps on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Princeton. The next two weeks of preparation leading up to the meet will be critical for the Red and Blue’s success as a team.