With little time remaining in the season, the men’s cross country team rebounded from their less-than-stellar performance at the University Athletic Association Championships by posting a very solid fifth-place finish at the New York State Championships last Saturday.
“It was like night and day,” Head Coach John Izzo said.
With 15 teams competing at SUNY Geneseo, the State meet was much larger than the UAA Championships, in which there were only eight teams.
The first-place team was Geneseo, which had just 33 points.
SUNY Brockport was second with 72 points.
Placing third was the Rochester Institute of Technology, which posted 81 points.
With 126 points, St. Lawrence University came in fourth.
UR earned its fifth-place finish by scoring 144 points.
“I thought a real good effort would put us in fifth,” Izzo said. “That’s what I think was real impressive – going in with a man down and achieving our goal. Everybody stepped it up.”
Senior Dan Duett was the team’s top finisher. His time of 26:20.8 for the eight-kilometer race put him in eighth place.
With a time of 27:08.3, freshman Joseph Lust earned 23rd place.
“Joe Lust and Dan Duett both ran fabulous races,” Izzo said.
Junior Andrew Dylag was 34th among the scorers, completing the race in 27:24.1.
Not far behind was sophomore Kevin McGettrick, who was 36th with a time of 27:26.7.
Freshman Nick Roosa was the final scorer for the team, as he ran 27:34.7 to finish 43rd.
“Eight out of the 10 guys had one of their top races of the year,” Izzo said. “I think we just had fun this weekend.”
The sharp contrast between the two races taught the team a valuable lesson.
“I think we learned that putting too much pressure on yourself doesn’t help your performance – it hinders it,” Izzo said. “They approached this [week] with a much more healthy mental attitude.”
Barring extraordinary circumstances, the NCAA Regional Championships this weekend will probably be the last race of the season for most members of the team. With only three teams qualifying for Nationals, it is highly unlikely, although not impossible, for the team to make a run at it.
“Our goal is definitely to be a top-ten team, and I think we can flirt with being a top-five team,” Izzo said.
One advantage the team will have over last week’s race is the return of sophomore Andrew Whitbeck.
“If he runs anywhere near where he’s capable, it could bounce us up a little bit.” Izzo said.
Even if the team cannot qualify, there are positions available for individual qualifiers and the team certainly cannot be discounted in that category.
“I think Dan Duett has a real shot of making it to Nationals,” Izzo said. “There are about 15 real good kids running for five spots.”
With a no-pressure mentality and a performance like last week’s, anything is possible.
Swidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.