Georgetown’s women’s and men’s cross-country teams will advance to the NCAA Championship after first- and second-place respective finishes at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Meet last Friday in State College, Pa.
“The regional meets are the qualifiers for the national meet, so you have to be top two in the region, and then there are also some teams that get at-large bids for the nationals. Our goal is always the national championship,” Women’s Head Coach Michael Smith said.
The No. 2 Georgetown women’s team finished first overall at the conference meet, with four of its runners finishing in the top 10. Senior All-American Katrina Coogan finished first overall in the meet, with a time of 20:06 on the 6-kilometer course. Junior Haley Pierce finished seventh overall with a time of 20:39, while junior Samantha Nadel finished eighth with a matching time. Graduate student Madeline Chambers finished 10th overall with a time of 20:46.
“I was happy that my performance could contribute so greatly to the team score,” Coogan said of her winning performance. “Going into the meet we had a goal of winning, practicing things that were going to help us at NCAAs, and having a really strong team performance, and the fact that I could contribute to that was great.”
Georgetown barely edged over second-place finisher No. 7 West Virginia, with 38 points in comparison to West Virginia’s 42. Considering the team’s race strategy, such a high overall result was very impressive. The Hoyas purposefully started the race slowly in order to challenge their mental toughness, pacing and emotional discipline.
“We purposefully tried to start really far back, so we sent them out off the [starting] line really slow,” Smith said. “We had athletes finish in the top 10 but they were in around 150th place one mile into the race.”
Its regular-season success placed Georgetown in a position to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA championship regardless of the regional meet’s results. Because of this, the Hoyas used the conference race as an opportunity to improve their race tactics.
“Having them start so far back and have to work their way forward — there was a good chance we could lose the meet that way, but I think it was better to try something like that and get something out of it,” Smith said. “We tried to put them in a kind of mentally challenging position which forced them to exhibit emotional control.”
Coogan said that the team learned to work together with the unusual tactic.
“Our pack started a little farther back than we would normally to practice moving through bodies and building throughout the race, specifically to practice moving together, which we did a great job of,” Coogan added.
The No. 14 Georgetown men’s team ranked second overall in its 10K race. Rival No. 7 Villanova placed first overall with 41 points, while Georgetown finished with 74 points. Four of Georgetown’s starters finished in the top 20. Sophomore Scott Carpenter finished sixth overall with a time of 30:23, while junior Darren Fahy finished eighth with a time of 30:24. Senior John Murray and senior Ryan Gil finished 14th and 19th, respectively.
With a third place finish at the pre-NCAA meet, Georgetown was already likely locked in to an at-large bid. Still, finishing in the top two at the Mid-Atlantic meet guaranteed its spot in the NCAA championship.
“I think we were in a great situation — we’d performed well in the regular season so we were in a situation where maybe we didn’t have a ton of pressure … but it’s always a goal of ours to finish in the top two,” men’s distance Coach Brandon Bonsey said.
“I am really happy with our automatic spot to NCAAs,” Carpenter said. “Last year we did not qualify for the meet, but that does not mean we are content with the season up to this point. We want to go to nationals and compete as hard as we can. We have the potential to surprise some people across the country, and that’s exactly what we’re going there to do.”
Minor errors set Georgetown back in the meet. Graduate student Brian King lost a shoe at the 4.5-mile mark, while Carpenter fell with 1000m left in the race.
“He got up and was still able to finish sixth, so I think that was pretty incredible,” Bonsey said.
Though the Hoyas performed well overall at the Mid-Atlantic Regional, the NCAA championship meet will present a tougher pool of competitors that will challenge the Hoyas more considerably.
“There are going to be many more talented individual runners at nationals than we have run against so far this season … As long as we stay composed to feed off of each other, we can run really well,” Carpenter said.
The NCAA championships will take place Saturday, Nov. 22, at Terre Haute, Ind.