Cross country season is off and running, and the Royals showed flashes of success in September.
The University’s men’s cross country team placed fifth, fifth and second while the women finished third, sixth and third in their first three respective races. The women’s team has also seen two individual victories from one rising first-year runner.
Although there are no regular season Landmark Conference standings in cross country, the Royals are keeping a good pace and showing promise as they head into the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University on Friday.
After last season’s third place finish at the Landmark Conference championship, the men’s cross country team looks to take the next step toward its first title.
“We want to compete for and really truly win the Landmark Conference,” senior Schuyler Smith said. “It is a lofty goal, we know that. We have to get better to achieve that goal. It’s certainly not going to be easy at all, but that is what we want to do.”
Third is the highest the Royals have ever finished in conference in men’s cross country, but the men are picking up the pace.
The team started the season with a fifth place finish at the Misericordia Invitational, which they used as a practice meet, Sept. 1. The nine-team event covered 5,000 meters with Smith leading the Royals individually in 24th place.
“The first meet we did a tempo, so we weren’t racing it as hard as we possibly could,” Smith said. “It was more of like a workout, but we did really well.”
Smith finished the course in 17:51.0, followed by sophomore Eric Bartlett (28th, 17:56.9), first-year Zachary Mead (29th, 17:57.2), first-year Jack Patwell (30th, 17:57.8), sophomore Chris Baldwin (32nd, 18:12.9), senior Nick Peragine (34th, 18:22.2) and junior Matt Barrett (35th, 18:27.5), totalling 143 points.
“Everyone said they felt smooth, everyone felt good, I don’t think anybody overextended themselves,” Smith said, “I think we had a really good showing and it was a good workout on the cross country course.”
Smith set a 6,000-meter personal best the following week at the Ron Stonitsch Invitational at Vassar College on Sept. 9. However, the Royals were led by Bartlett, who also set a personal best finishing 45th in 20:37.2.
The Royals took fifth out of 10 with 174 points. Following Bartlett was Mead (54th, 20:48.2), Smith (60th, 20:54.0), senior David de Leon (73rd, 21:52.2) and sophomore Zachary Gutekunst (76th, 21:32.3).
The best showing of the year for the men came in the most recent meet. The team finished second out of six at the Cougar Classic at Misericordia University on Sept. 16.
Smith (sixth, 20:08.76) and Mead (seventh, 29:12.09) crossed the line back to back as the highest finishing Royals on the first 8,000-meter course of the season.
“It only gets tougher,” said Smith, who earned Landmark Conference Athlete of the Week honors for his performance. “ I want to continue to lead the team as much as I can … but there’s still work to be done.”
Gutenkunst (ninth, 29:33.47), Patwell (10th, 29:36.03) and Peragine (11th, 29:48.52) wrapped up the top five Royals, totalling 38 points.
The Royals look forward to the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh on Friday, one of the group’s favorite events of the season.
“It’s the biggest meet in terms of the number of runners that we run all year, so you never have to worry about not being able to run next to somebody, there’s always going to be somebody you’re racing against,” Smith said. “It’s a really great course and you can run some really fast times there.”
The women’s cross country team last won a conference title in 2009, but the squad is off to a quick start this season.
Leading the way is first-year Abigail Corrigan, winner of two individual titles in her first three career races.
“It’s pretty much all new to me, so I didn’t really know what to expect competitive-wise who I’m going to matchup with,” Corrigan said. “It’s pretty exciting to be doing well in such a new environment.”
Corrigan placed second overall at the Misericordia Invitational on Sept. 1, leading the team to a third-place finish in the first meet of the season. She finished the 4,000-meter course in 15:18.3 as the Royals accumulated 84 points.
The next Royals across the line were first-year Abigail Guziewicz (14th, 16:34.4), junior Emily Carr (30th, 17:32.0), sophomore Amy Kaiser (31st, 17:32.1) and senior Elaine House (36th, 17:45.0).
The following week, Corrigan captured her first individual title at the Ron Stonitsch Invitational on Sept. 9. Although the team finished sixth of eight, her 19:04.4 time on the 5,000-meter course earned the the women’s cross country team its first individual win since 2013.
The University’s next finishers were Guziewicz (32nd, 20:28.7), Kaiser (43rd, 20:54.7), House (53rd, 21:24.1) and Carr (57th, 21:32.5). The run was a 5,000-meter personal best for Kaiser, House and Carr as the Royals totalled 145 points.
“We’re kind of just getting started,” Corrigan said after the meet. “Even just getting to know everybody, but the season has been going good so far.”
The first-year runner captured her second individual title a week later at the Cougar Classic. Corrigan completed the 6,000 meter course in 23:14.92, burning the rest of the competition by more than 33 seconds.
The Royals placed third among six teams with 73 points. Guziewicz finished as the second Royal for the third time, finishing 13th in 26:16.96. Rounding out the top five were House (20th, 27:07.46), first-year Kerri Rafter (21st, 27:15.29) and Carr (26th, 27:46.27).
Corrigan has been the highlight of a dynamic team that has a considerable amount of young talent being mentored by cross country veterans.
“I think all the freshman can agree that it’s definitely helped with the transition to college with all the upperclassmen because we’re such a close-knit team, the girls and the boys,” Corrigan said. “It’s like a family, so they really helped us get acclimated to the school.”
The women were slated fifth in the Landmark Conference preseason poll in August, and the team looks to regain its championship contender status by finishing higher than that mark. But for now, the Royals prepare for Friday’s Paul Short Invitational.