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Despite being one of the best runners on the team, senior Kevin Monogue has yet to compete in a race this year. (File Photo)

Credit: Ilana Wurman , Ilana Wurman

Cross country comes with its usual aches and pains, but it hurts even more when some of the strongest runners are out at the same time.

Although injuries have kept a few of the best runners for Penn men’s and women’s cross country off the course, both teams are ready to move past them as the Quakers head into the most important stretch of their season.

Notably kept from racing early in the season have been captains from both the men's and women's squads, seniors Kevin Monogue and Karli Visconto, as well as junior Will Daly.

Being on the sidelines doesn’t mean these runners are down and out, though. There are many ways they can still be involved despite not being able to race, whether that means cheering their teammates on or improving their own fitness.

“Physically, if they haven’t been able to run, they’ve been doing a great job of cross-training or doing little things just to get themselves healthy,” said junior Colin Daly, the twin of Will Daly. “And mentally, they’ve been here at practice and supporting us at meets, so it’s almost like even though they’re not running they seem like they’re a bigger part of the team. It’s been awesome to have.”

Both Monogue, sidelined with IT band trouble and resulting upper leg pain, and Will Daly, healing from a toe surgery, have been actively practicing with the team and gaining back the time they lost recuperating. The pair will make their long-awaited return this weekend at the Penn State National Open.

Like the men, the women’s side has also seen a big name missing time in 2017 All-Ivy runner sophomore Danielle Orie, who joined Visconto on the sidelines for much of the beginning of the season.

Dealing with calf and Achilles trouble, Orie returned to the course for the first time since last season when she competed in the Paul Short Run at the end of September. Rather than race her early on and risk further injury, coach Steve Dolan made the decision to wait until she was more fully recovered.

“It was definitely tough, but having a coach that understands you need to rest and have patience, for me that’s difficult since I’m a very impatient person,” Orie said.

Orie felt nervous while getting back into training, but her determination to come back kept her going.

“I just wanted to be ready to run and be there for my team,” she said. “It’s hard not to be there, but all of us who have been injured need to know that they're just as much a part of the team on the field versus off of it.”

In the absence of these big names, other runners have had to step up this season, such as junior Maddie Villalba for the women and sophomore Anthony Russo for the men.

Villalba’s breakout season has seen her place first or second among Penn runners in every course she has run so far, and similarly, Russo has been the fastest for the Red and Blue men in two meets this season.

“It’s a testament to our team,” Colin Daly said. “We pride ourselves on having a lot of depth, and when big guys take a fall you have to step up; I think we’ve done a great job.”

After the last race two weeks ago where Orie and Visconto made their return, this weekend at Penn State will see Monogue and Will Daly back, so both teams will be eager to perform at their highest strength so far this season.

All four were among the team’s top finishers at last year’s Heptagonal Championships, so their recovery will only help the team. With this year’s Heps just two weeks away, every last time on the course counts.

“Now is where it gets more exciting, and the fact that we have everyone coming together for this race, it’s gonna be interesting to see what we’ve been striving for,” Russo said.

The injuries might have slowed Penn cross country down a little, but now the Quakers are ready to face the competition as a whole.