Braving out the rain and the cold is tough for any athlete. Running 10 kilometers in the rain and the cold for the NCAA Championship, however, requires a new breed of toughness — a toughness found only in a cross country runner.
The 2019 NCAA Cross Country Championships were held on Saturday at Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind., featuring 253 runners from all over the country in the men’s 10K run.
Junior Anthony Russo was the lone Quaker to participate in the event, qualifying through his ninth place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regionals last week. Russo was looking to improve on his 187th place finish in last year’s championship, while also providing a solid finish to the 2019 cross country season.
“I just wanted to compete to the best of my ability and see how well I would match up with the best runners in the country,” Russo said.
With a high temperature of 39 degrees and freezing rain in the forecast, the race required just as much mental endurance as it did physical. The runners trudged through the mud and cold for half an hour to triumph for their respective schools.
“[The weather] slowed the pace down because it was very muddy, on the downhills it was pretty slippery, so the turns were hard to make, and there were puddles all throughout the course,” Russo said, “It slowed the race down, but the effort was still there.”
Russo finished 89th in this year’s championship with a time of 31:54.9, comparable to his finish in last year’s championship despite the harsh conditions. The individual title went to Iowa State senior Edwin Kurgat with a time of 30:32.7, while BYU took home the team trophy.
“I’ve been pretty pleased with how I’ve been progressing,” Russo said, “All I can ask for in college is to continue to progress and continue to get better.”
The NCAA Championship caps off a successful season for Russo in which he earned first team All-Ivy honors and led the Quakers to their second team Ivy League title in four years.
“First and foremost, I want to lower my times,” Russo said, “Hopefully I can score some points and win an [Ivy League Heptagonal Track & Field Championship] title and move on to the NCAA finals in Austin, Texas.”
Despite how much he may deserve it, Russo will not have many days off, as he is set to once again lead Penn’s indoor track distance team during the winter season, specializing in the 5K. All eyes will be on Russo as he continues to showcase Penn distance running on a national stage.