The men’s cross country team is feeling the tension rise as this Saturday’s University Athletic Association Championship Race at Carnegie Mellon University approaches.

The Yellowjackets stayed home this weekend to run in the Alumni Fun Run, held every year during Meliora Weekend. Drawing young and old, this run serves as a gathering for past, present and future runners.

“It’s nice to see the guys have a good time talking to old teammates and people who used to run,” head coach John Izzo said.

However, with Saturday quickly approaching, the honeymoon’s over. UR has become notorious for not racing well at the UAA Championship race, finishing in last place the past four years. However, they plan to change that this year.

“We have the strongest team in the six years I’ve been here,” Izzo said. “Our intention is to have everyone run their best on the same day and to break our streak of not performing well at the UAAs.”

This will be no easy feat for the team. The UAA is one of the top three conferences in the states for cross country and there will be fierce competition. New York University, Case Western Reserve University and Emory University are all ranked in the top 25 in the most recent NCAA Division III poll. Izzo is not too concerned.

“If you want to be considered among the best, you have to run with the best,” he said.

To prepare, Izzo has toned down the training a little bit. “I’ve pulled back on the workload this week to run fast this weekend,” he said.

The team is also trying to think of the meet with less angst and anticipation this year. They plan to travel to Pennsylvania just one day in advance, rather than two, to keep it more like a regular invitational. They’re trying very hard not to get too psyched out about the race.

Izzo seems to be pleased with the prospects. However, he is keeping a level head when thinking about the event.

“We have a very talented team this year,” he said, “but potential and talent are only good if they’re used.”

After this weekend’s meet, the Yellowjackets will travel to Hamilton College for the New York State Collegiate Track Conference championships on Nov. 5.

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