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meliisa-tanaka

Junior Melissa Tanaka had one of the best performances of her career this past Friday at the Penn State Invitational, as she was the first Quaker to cross the finish line.

Credit: Chase Sutton

Two days, two impressive meets for Penn cross country.

On Friday morning, both teams traveled to State College, Pa. for the Penn State National Open and went home with top-five finishes. The next day, runners who did not race at Penn State made the shorter trip to compete at the Princeton Invitational, where the men’s team placed sixth out of 24 teams, and the women finished a respectable 14th.

At Penn State, junior Anthony Russo led the way for Penn, finishing second overall in the 5.2-mile run. It was a true team effort for the men today, as all runners — Russo, seniors Andrew Hally and Will Daly, and juniors Noah Carey and Daniel Cohen — finished inside the top 25. For the women, fellow junior Melissa Tanaka was the first Quaker to cross the finish line, and coach Steve Dolan was enthusiastic about her performance.

“That was probably Melissa Tanaka’s best cross country race of college, she was the first runner finishing," Dolan said. “She’s done a great job, she’s more of a middle-distance runner in track, so it’s really fun to watch her excel in cross country."

Tanaka, who has an accomplished track career at Penn that includes a school record and multiple Ivy League Championships, is proving to be just as valuable for the cross country team as well.

Overall, the men finished runner-up to Philadelphia rival Temple, but beat out several schools including Georgia Tech, William & Mary, and Lehigh. The women finished fifth out of 16 teams, one place behind Ivy League rival Princeton.

Running a familiar trail on Saturday in Princeton, N.J., senior Mitchell Poynter finished first for the Quakers and 14th overall. Senior Christina Rancan had the fastest finish of the Penn women on the day, in what was a bit of a homecoming for her, since she attended high school just a couple of miles outside of Princeton.

As a result of the Quakers’ recent success, both teams have burst into the rankings. The women are No. 23 nationally and first in the Mid-Atlantic region, while the men have received recognition as the No. 3 in the region and received four votes in the national poll. After another successful weekend, the teams could be poised to make a jump in the polls.

The Red and Blue will aim to fare similarly in their next meet, the Ivy League Heptagonal Championship on Nov. 1 in the Bronx, N.Y. While the runners will certainly be happy with their performances this weekend, they are already looking forward to their next meet.

“That meet always adds a lot of excitement, with the history of it, so the excitement will be there in addition to the preparation over the next two weeks,” said Dolan.

The Quakers will spend the next two weeks preparing for championship as they look to improve upon their finish from last season, where the men’s and women’s teams finished fourth and eighth, respectively. 

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