After placing third and fourth, respectively, at the Saratoga Invitational last weekend, the Women and Men’s Cross Country teams are on the right track to continue their successful season, Head Coach Mike Trunkes said.
Saturday’s performance earned the women a No. 6 regional ranking in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association NCAA Div. III Atlantic Regional Cross Country Rankings for the week. This is the first time in program history the team has been ranked within the top 10. This is a testament to the talent the women’s team possesses this season, Trunkes said.
“I am extremely proud of what they have accomplished,” he said.
No. 5 ranked Vassar, who is also ranked No. 30 nationally, has been defeated by the Lady Hawks twice this season. This, and the team’s success at prior races against SUNY, regional and non-regional teams, gives Trunkes confidence that the team will do well within the SUNYAC Championship and ultimately the NCAA Div. III Atlantic Regional Championships, he said.
In past years, the top two teams in the regional championship would receive an automatic birth to nationals, with a limit of three additional bids given by a committee for each region. These three bids at large are based off of certain criteria of the teams’ performance within the season, including rankings within the region, as well as defeating high ranking teams in other regions, Trunkes said.
This year, the NCAA ratified the rules and is not placing a limit on the number of at large bids that can be given by the committee. With some regions across the country only producing a few competitive teams out of the 65 to 70 teams each region has, the NCAA felt it was only fair to increase the number of teams from more competitive regions allowed to attend. This gives the Lady Hawks an even greater chance to obtain one of those extra bids, Trunkes said.
“Our goal this season is pretty straight forward,” third-year Terisa Woych said. “We want to be, as a team, on a flight to Hanover, Ind. to compete in the National Championships. It’s not only just possible, it’s tangible.”
Trunkes said the Men’s team also has a lot of motivated and dedicated talent this season.
“The difference between the men’s team this year and last year is like night and day,” he said. “Their commitment to training and getting better is tremendous.”
Third-year Mike Scher said considering how well the team performed at the Vassar Invitational, where the men came in first of 11 teams, “this is the best the team has looked within the past 10 years or so. We have a real solid group of guys.”
Although the meet on Friday was not all they had hoped for, the team remains confident, Scher said.
Trunkes believes the Men’s team can finish this season within the top 10 of the region, which would be a “huge improvement” from last year.
He said the top two runners on the team, fourth-year Rob Gorski and first-year Galo Vasquez, are two valuable assets in accomplishing this goal.
“Rob is strong and mentally tough,” Trunkes said. “Galo is an extremely talented freshman that we are very lucky to have. He’s already breaking records, and you can tell he hasn’t even dipped into the tank yet – he hasn’t even touched his full potential.”
Woych and fourth-year Amanda Wolfer are the forefront who lead the women’s top five runners, and will hopefully lead the team to the top of the SUNYAC Championship and on to Nationals, Trunkes said. Third-year Bridgette Joskow, who had suffered a back injury before the start of the season, will also be a contributing talent upon her recovery.
With two months until regionals and six weeks until the SUNYAC Championship, Trunkes said he plans on using one of the two remaining invitationals of the regular season in a similar fashion to how the teams approached the Oneonta and Marist Invitationals.
“If you go into every race, racing all your best and going all out, that’s how you burn out runners,” Trunkes said. “Oneonta and Marist, we just cruised through the courses to get a feel of it and how we match up against other teams. It also allows us to not constantly pressure our top runners to perform their best every week, which can result in injuries.”
According to Trunkes, they will likely approach the Connecticut College Invitational this way in preparation for the following two weeks, where they will first head to Oneonta to compete for the SUNYAC title, and then compete at Geneseo in the Regional Championship.
The Hawks have two weeks until their next race, when they will travel to SUNY Geneseo on Oct. 5 to compete in the Pre-Regional Geneseo Invitational.