The men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the NCAC Championship meet on Sunday, Oct. 30. The women placed first out of eight teams with 47 points and the men finished first out of nine teams with 44 points.
“I think we were pretty well prepared. We had plans for all scenarios and we knew what we wanted to accomplish as far as executing throughout the race,” said Dan Cheung, ’17. “We responded well to how the race went out and each runner knew what they needed to do to run their best race.”
Cheung finished first on the men’s side with a time of 25:17 and was named 2016 NCAC Runner of the Year.
“It feels good. It’s validating. There’s a lot of work that goes into it starting back in June,” Cheung said. “Even back as a freshman, watching Bobby Over [class of 2013] win conference champion and Logan Steiner [class of 2016] before me, to fill shoes like that, it feels really good.”
On the women’s team, seniors SJ Guillaume and Monica Patrick finished third at 22:20 and fourth at 22:27, respectively, leading the Gators.
“Coach always gives us a race plan of the different training groups and what we should aim for, and I think everyone executed the plan pretty well,” said Patrick. “We knew that we would have a lot of girls in the top end. We ended up with four in the top 10, which is how we want it because that’s huge for points. Personally, I’m really happy about running a lot of the race with SJ [Guillaume] and Sarah [Hevener]. We went three, four and six, and ran a lot of it together.”
Patrick said a championship meet is different than other season meets because it is smaller and the team is training for regionals at this time.
“At this point, it is postseason, so it’s weird for us because it is conference and we want to win, but we also have our eyes on regionals which is how we make it to the national meet, so it’s a weird focus on the task at hand but knowing we have a lot more to do in the next couple weeks,” Patrick said.
Head Coach Ben Mourer said the best part of championships was getting the women’s score.
“The men had already won—we’d known that for about an hour—and the ladies race we had added up and thought it was going to be really close, so we sweat it out for a bit, but once we got the final score and knew both sides had won—the coaching staff was pretty excited,” Mourer said.
Following both races, Mourer was named NCAC Coach of the Year, the second year in a row for Allegheny’s coaching staff, as Jordan Hill won it last year.
“A really great moment was finding out the team took the victory,” Patrick said. “We were walking back from the start line to our camp with some of the alum that came back to watch us when results came up online. We stopped in the middle of our walk back to add up the scores. It’s fun when both teams win.”
Cheung said the team did better and knew what to expect this year because of the experience many members of the team have gotten at higher level meets in the past year.
“Last year, I hadn’t had a good race going into conferences and it was a breakthrough race for me, and I think our team was the same way,” Cheung said. “We struggled at the national meet [last year] because most of us hadn’t run at the national meet or at conference championships. So we had a lot more experience this year, and I think we’re a lot more poised when it comes to stepping on the lane and running a race.”
The team’s training is set for success at regionals, with a long season starting in June according to Mourer.
“Our training is set up for our best to be another two weeks from now—it’s focused on the regional championship,” Mourer said. “So for us to be ready for the conference championship takes quite a bit of focus because physically we’re not quite ready yet, so mentally we need to make up for that.”
Following regionals, the top two men’s and women’s teams get an automatic bid to nationals.
“Last year we placed third, so that put us in a good position for an at large bid to nationals. … We’re a little more experienced with dealing with high stakes meets this year and repeating as conference champs shows that,” Patrick said.
Mourer said he is looking forward to working with the teams to get into the top two and make it to Nationals.
“The men had an average regular season, so we feel that they kind of need a top two or three finish. The women had a better regular season, so we’d love to be top two, but really top three or four would get it done for them, and that should get us onto the national championship,” Mourer said.
Cheung added that he is looking to reach the potential that he knows the team has and to see the team compete at nationals this year.
“Cross country means a lot to me, so it’s two more races, and that’s kind of weird and setting in,” Cheung said. “I’m looking forward to enjoying the process and seeing the benefits of the hard work we’ve put in.”
The cross country teams will compete next at the College of Wooster’s Twilight Run on Friday, Nov. 4.