The No. 4 Georgetown women’s cross country team earned third place out of 24 competing teams at the Coast-to-Coast Beantown Invitational meet this weekend. Georgetown, which recorded 134 points, placed behind Providence and Syracuse, which had 42 and 127 points, respectively. Purdue, with 141 points, and Lipscomb, with 151 points, finished behind the Hoyas in fourth and fifth places. The No. 18 men’s cross country team did not participate in the meet this season.
“We were running a lineup of people who need experience at the top level of college running,” Head Coach Michael Smith said. “We had a bunch of sophomores in there that only raced two or three times as freshmen. Our team this year is going to rely heavily on them, so these early season meets are giving them a chance to race. One of the things I was most excited about was running a fairly inexperienced squad.”
The lead runner for the Hoyas was senior Samantha Nadel, who ran a time of 17:11.3 on the 5000-meter course and placed eighth overall in the meet. She was followed by graduate student Andrea Keklak who, in her first race back since last season, turned in a time of 17:29.7, ranking 22nd overall. Keklak’s resilience and grit were not overlooked by her teammates or her coach.
“She was hurt last year and missed both the indoor and outdoor track seasons. She stepped back in and was counted on by her teammates. Most people who step back in want to be behind the scenes and ease into it. At this level, there is pressure at every turn, so it was a big task, and she did great with it,” Smith said.
Sophomores Piper Donaghu and Autumn Eastman continued their strong start to the season with fine outings. Donaghu finished with a time of 17:35.6 (26th overall) and Eastman with 17:41.1 (32nd overall). The duo appears ready for a breakout season after running well at the JMU Invitational and handling the pressure of a larger meet on Friday. For the Hoyas to continue to enjoy success at these large-scale meets, Donaghu and Eastman must maintain their intensity and focus.
“They showed a lot of promise last year. What they needed was a year under their belt. Now they have a year of training and have settled into school, so I think they are ready to show what they can do,” Smith said.
Unlike indoor and outdoor track and field, each cross country course has its own advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, weather conditions can alter a runner’s preliminary strategy in a race. As a result, familiarity with the course and the weather forecast can boost a runner’s confidence before the meet.
“[The course] is a flat, fast course and 1000 meters shorter than what we will run at the national meet,” Smith said. “That makes the pace even faster. It is a place if you know how to run it, it can really help you.”
The Hoyas will look back on their performance and assess the strengths and weaknesses of their running. Smith stated that while strategy is unique for each runner, the team needs to find the energy to push itself during the final moments of the race.
“We had a good first half of the race for sure. We executed our race plan as far as where we wanted to get position and where we wanted to settle into the pack. But we have to work on finishing and fighting in that last mile. That is the difference between a solid race and a great race,” Smith said.
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams will traveling to Bethlehem, Pa. to compete in the Paul Short Invitational meet on Oct. 2.