The red-hot Red and Blue cross country teams took to New York to compete in the annual Ivy League Heptagonal Cross Country Championships, and they put on a show in the Bronx.
Coming off a series of strong finishes at Paul Short, Penn State, and Princeton, the Quakers have been determined all season to put their best foot forward at high-stakes meets like the Ivy Heps. This grit certainly showed on Friday afternoon: The men's team took first and the women's team took third in the competition.
The men’s team accumulated just 62 points, a combined three places better than Harvard, who finished with 65 points. The win gave Penn its first Ivy League title since 2016 and the fourth men's title of all time.
Junior Anthony Russo was the men's individual runner-up with a final time of 24:38.3, continuing his streak of impressive performances for the team this fall. Russo earned first team All-Ivy honors for the meet. Additionally, senior Will Daly and junior Ryan Renken finished 10th and 14th, respectively, joined by juniors Daniel Cohen at 17th and Alexander Roth at 19th to help the Quakers end with five top-20 finishes.
“I was very proud of both of the teams. On the men’s side, it was a really special day for us. The thing I’ve been telling people is that the core of the team is juniors and seniors, so it was a veteran group that ran a great team effort today," coach Steve Dolan said. "We are definitely going to enjoy this moment just because there’s so much history to the Heps and the Ivy League Championships, and we will take the night and weekend to enjoy this accomplishment.”
The women’s team also impressed and placed third, losing a tiebreaker to Harvard; both teams had 89 points, finishing behind No. 24 Columbia's 57 points.
Senior Maddie Villalba finished fourth overall with a final time of 21:02.1, earning her first team All-Ivy status as she continues to lead the women’s team to success. She was followed by sophomore Ariana Gardizy at 13th and senior Nia Akins at 14th, who helped the Quakers put up an outstanding showing against strong conference competitors.
“On the women’s side, it was a very good run for us to be a strong third, so I was very proud of how well they competed,” Dolan said. “We had the philosophy that we wanted to get better every two weeks, so we are just trying to train hard, improve, and have definitely seen that with the men and the women throughout the season. It was really fun to see all their hard work come together.”
The Ivy Heps was the first of several championship meets for the Quakers. In two weeks, the team will make the short trip to Bethlehem, Pa. to compete in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, followed by the National Championship in Terre Haute, Ind. at the end of November if they qualify. So despite this golden performance at Ivy Heps, they know the season is far from over.
“Both the men and the women have been ranked amongst the top five schools in the region throughout the fall, so we’re hoping we can make a great team run again in two weeks,” Dolan added. “While it's nice to celebrate, there is still a lot of season left to play. We’ll definitely get back to work and bring our best [there] again.”
The postseason is just beginning, and it seems like the Red and Blue are peaking at just the right time.