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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues around the country, a few members on Penn men's cross country have opted to train in Colorado for the semester.

Credit: Chase Sutton

With Penn’s athletes scattered around the world, the Schuylkill River Trail won’t see as many cross country runners as it usually does.

Training together is impossible with the team divided, but some Penn men's cross country runners have traveled far away from Philadelphia to get a leg up on the competition.

One of them is Jamie Lee, a junior from Longmont, Colo. who brought a group of his teammates home with him to take advantage of the mountaintop altitude at his family’s ranch.

“Quite a few teams are taking advantage of it. I know Princeton’s out here and Georgetown," Lee said. "If you have the opportunity, altitude training is probably the best thing to do right now. I think it gives us an edge. Every year, a lot of cross country runners come out to Colorado for the summer, and it definitely gives them an edge in the fall over the teams that don’t do it.”

Altitude training is popular among high-performing athletes because of its physiological, performance-enhancing benefits – they can't get these benefits at the Schuylkill.

“When the school shut down athletics completely, we had a group chat – I guess it was the juniors' group chat – and we were talking about what to do in the fall," Lee said. "The idea just came up of possibly living somewhere else.”

“So I suggested maybe they could come out here and live with me in Colorado, get some altitude training in," he added. "It worked out nicely; we kind of have the house to ourselves, as if we were living in Philadelphia. It’s four of us now, and we have some more teammates coming out next week.”

Ray Sellaro, William Hare, Tim Dolan, and Justin Cornetta are also juniors on the team who moved to Colorado with Lee. With a decent-sized group together, they can work on their training while living with part of the team.

“[Coach Dolan] seemed to be a fan of the idea," Lee said. "Philadelphia doesn’t seem like the greatest place to be training right now, so it seemed like a good idea to come out here and do some altitude training while still being isolated from the virus.”

Unlike the majority of their teammates, who opted to stay on the East Coast, those who chose to move have much more options over how to train.

“Most of the team is in Philly," Lee said. "They’re pretty restricted on where they can go, and it’s still busy along the river. In Colorado we get up to 9,000-foot elevation on long runs, and it’s nice and isolated. Training’s just a little bit nicer out here.”

There’s no word yet from the NCAA or the Ivy League on whether sports will be back in the spring, but Lee and his teammates remain hopeful.

“There is a little bit of talk going around that NCAA might have a winter cross country season. I don’t know too much about that," Lee said. "I’m mostly hopeful for an outdoor spring track season. I feel like there’s a good chance we’ll have that.”

Like many Penn athletes, Lee seems hopeful that sports will be back this spring. Only time will tell if he and his teammates will get a chance to put their training to the test.