The Quakers turned the Fiasco into a fantastic showing.
Both Penn men's and women's cross country showed promise at the Fordham Fiasco in Bronx, N.Y. this weekend. The men finished third in a field of 12, while the women garnered a fourth-place finish out of 11 teams.
The phrase “slow and steady wins the race” may be from a fable, but it’s a legitimate strategy employed by Penn's coaching staff. Early in the season, the staff focuses on keeping a steady pace with minimal differences in individual runner times.
“[The story of the day is] them running together to set the stage for the races that are bigger later in the season,” coach Steve Dolan said. “There were runners who could have run faster, but we asked them to stay together as kind of a team-building camaraderie at the first contest.”
This event was also the perfect warm-up for the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships later in the season, which will also be held at Van Cortlandt Park. This early race allowed the Quakers to get a feel for the course and observe all of its ebbs and flows without too much pressure and at a consistent pace.
Also notable about Saturday's results is how much accountability and trust is employed on the players. Both teams only had their first official practice on Aug. 27, leaving the bulk of the preparation for the first meet up to these athletes during the summer. Dolan added that the team members get a very extensive game plan at the end of the school year for training over the summer, and then it’s up to them to work toward the desired results in the fall.
On the women’s side of things, senior Julianna Catania carded the fastest time for the Quakers at 20:03.57 to land her at 21st overall. There were eight runners who finished sequentially behind Catania in a group, with freshman Delia Russo rounding out the pack, only 3.48 seconds behind Catania. Penn was the only team to have nine runners finish in a row, with Princeton the next closest at five runners.
Although this strategy kept the Quakers easily in the top half of competition, they were behind Ivy League foes Harvard and Princeton, who claimed the top two spots, respectively.
As for the men, junior Ryan Renken broke into the top 20 with his time of 27:47:09, good for the 20th spot overall. The men also employed the pack tactic, placing 11 runners in positions 20-32, including a pack of seven from 20-26, followed by a group of four with only two runners from other schools in between.
For both teams, the previous experience running this course for the juniors and seniors was evident, as the 2017 Ivy Heps was also held at Van Cortlandt Park. Out of 21 runners for the men and women who placed in the top 32, a total of 14 were either juniors or seniors.
This event was a strong season-opening showing for both teams. The game plan moving forward is controlled and efficient speed that allows all of the Quakers to finish well on average as a team with speed increasing across meets, and individual fast runners will begin to show later in the season.
Looking ahead, the Quakers will suit up again in two weeks at Boston College for the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Boston, Mass.