This weekend marks the official start to the Georgetown men and women’s cross-country seasons, as the men travel north to Penn State and the women head south to James Madison University for their respective relays.
Ranked 29th nationally in the preseason polls, the men’s team travels to State College, Pa., on Saturday to compete in the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational. That same day, the fifth-ranked women will make the trip to New Market, Va. to compete in the James Madison Invitational.
Though the teams begin their seasons on the same day, the squads are taking different approaches to the weekend’s competition. Coming off a disappointing conclusion to its 2013 season, the men’s squad prepares to start its 2014 season with a tough mentality and make its mark as soon as possible.
“I think we just want to set the tone from the first meet of executing our race plan and just giving a really good effort,” Men’s Assistant Coach Brandon Bonsey said.
The NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Meet will take place on the same course, augmenting the attractiveness of the Penn State meet.
“The regional meet this year is part of the reason why we’re going,” Bonsey explained.
The Hoyas don’t plan on resting any of their runners besides senior Collin Leibold. The decision to not race Leibold is purely precautionary, as resting experienced runners in the early stages of the season is common practice. Luckily for the team, the State College location is not new territory for the Hoyas, as they won the Mid-Atlantic Regional at the same 5.2-mile course two years ago.
“We’re familiar with the course, it’s pretty flat and downhill for the first couple miles and then there’s a pretty monster hill there in the last mile so it kind of ends up being pretty difficult at the most difficult point of the race,” Bonsey said.
Approximately eight to 10 other teams will join Georgetown at the Spiked Shoe Invitational, including familiar foe Syracuse. The Orange are ranked eighth nationally according to preseason polls, and finished 10th at the NCAA championships last season.
“They were a former Big East foe of ours and now they’re in the ACC so we don’t see them quite as much as we used to,” Bonsey said. “That’s a team that we want to be competing with to see where we stack up in this first meet.”
As the men race in Pennsylvania, the women travel to Virginia with a more developmental outlook. Instead of matching up to competition and focusing on a result, Women’s Head Coach Michael Smith explains that the meet provides an ideal setting to prioritize the introduction of the racing schedule and establish a routine that will be in place all season.
“This is a weekend where our priority is trying to set the template that will apply to future races. A template for our pre-race routine, the routines we go through the night before and the morning of, and just preparing for the meets that are coming later,” Smith said.
The 3.2-mile course for the meet is located in the historic New Market Battlefield Park, the site of an 1864 Civil War battle. Though the meet will be fairly “low-key” according to Smith, the Hoyas still plan on running their top athletes.
“We’ll be running a lot of our veteran proven runners. There will be some that don’t race —we’ll put it together on a case-by-case basis,” Smith said.
Both meets will present fitting settings for each team’s individual needs and goals during this stage of the season.
Both Hoya squads see Saturday’s races as good measuring sticks for their progress in preseason training, as well as an opportunity to see what improvements should be made before the season kicks into full gear.
“Not only is it a good meet with good competition, but it’s going to have our guys get some experience on this course and know what’s coming up in November when we head back [to State College],” Bonsey said.
“It’s not so much a meet where competition is our major focus, it’s more about preparing to start a long cross-country season,” Smith concurred.