With their first postseason meet under their belts, Georgetown’s cross-country teams are continually displaying why their programs are so highly regarded this season.
The Hoyas dominated the field at the Big East Cross Country Championship in Indianapolis on Friday, Oct. 31, while racing against some of the toughest nationally ranked teams. The No. 2 women’s team finished in first place with a historic 19 points as all five scoring runners finished within the top six overall, while the No. 16 men’s team continued to build on their ongoing success with a strong second-place finish.
The women’s team was led by senior All-American Katrina Coogan, who finished in first place among all the runners on the field. Coogan finished the 6-kilometer race in 20:31:0, beating second-place Providence sophomore Catarina Rocha, who completed her race in 20:40:0.
“Any time you can win the race, be the Big East champion, that’s a huge honor and [Coogan]’s very deserving of it,” Women’s Cross-Country Head Coach Michael Smith said. “I’m thrilled for her because it hasn’t come easy. She had to work really hard over the last few years, and I’m just really happy that she gets to enjoy that.”
Coogan’s first-place finish is the first time Georgetown has had an individual champion in the Big East championship since All-American Melissa Grelli won in 2007. Grelli transferred to Oregon, a running powerhouse, for her 2008 redshirt senior season.
The women’s team’s 19 points gave the Hoyas a 49-point advantage over second-place Providence College, which scored 65 points. In cross-country, the team with the lowest score wins. The Hoyas beat the previous record of a 44-point margin of victory between the first- and second-place teams that was set in 2009 by Villanova University. The Hoyas’ 19 points was the best team score in a Big East championship meet since 1990.
Georgetown’s successful race at the Big East championship established it as the runaway leader of the Big East. The only other ranked team, No. 24 Villanova, finished in fourth place.
“We wanted to make a huge statement as a team at Big East and that is exactly what we did,” Coogan said. “Five point-scoring runners within the top six is so rare and the fact that we were able to do that is incredible. We really focused on running together as a pack and that was key for how we did this weekend.”
The other point-tallying runners for the women were juniors Haley Pierce and Sam Nadel, senior Track All-American Andrea Keklak and senior All-American Hannah Neczypor. They finished in third through sixth place overall, respectively.
The meet marked Nadel’s first race of the season. The junior was one of the leading runners for the Hoyas last season. She finished in sixth place overall at last year’s Big East championship.
“During the race, I felt better than I expected to, but I still feel like I need a little more time to get my full fitness back,” Nadel said. “Most of all, I feel so blessed to have been able to come back from my injury, race this season and contribute to our team score.”
The Georgetown men’s team complemented the women’s dominant win with a second-place finish. The Hoyas tallied 51 points, just behind a No. 7 Villanova Wildcats team that finished with 23 points and featured three runners who took the top three spots in the overall race.
Younger runners led the way for the Hoyas as sophomores Jonathan Green and Scott Carpenter and junior Darren Fahy finished among the top 10 runners. Green completed the 8K in 23:52.7 and crossed the finish line in fifth place overall, finishing first among Georgetown runners at the Big East championship.
Junior All-American Ahmed Bile and senior Ryan Gil rounded out the rest of the point-tallying runners. Bile and Gil finished in 14th and 15th place, respectively.
“This is a unique team — we’ve had a different number one runner at every meet this year,” men’s distance Coach Brandon Bonsey said. “None of these guys scored for us last year, but those are five really talented guys who have matured and progressed over the last year.”
The men’s team has stressed its pack-running strategy throughout its season, with the best example of the strategy coming through during the 2014 Indiana State University Pre-National Meet, where there was only a 10-second difference between the team’s top runner and fifth runner.
The team was less successful at following this strategy Friday. There was a 19-second difference between Carpenter’s 10th-place and Bile’s 14th-place finishing times.
“The team could have definitely stayed together longer throughout the race. About halfway through the race Jon, Darren and I were the only Georgetown runners in the top pack and we can certainly have our top seven run together through 5K,” Carpenter said. “If we could have stayed together for longer, we would have been able to pull each other along to the finish.”
In spite of some hiccups in their race plan, the Hoyas saw significant positives in their performance. Just as Nadel returned to compete for Georgetown at the Big East championship, so too did Gil and senior Collin Leibold.
“Ryan Gil ran extremely well for us. We all knew he was in great shape going into the race, but I’m not sure any of us expected him to be our fifth man,” Carpenter said. “He ran a tough race and kept his charging all the way to the finish.”
The Hoyas’ next meet will decide if the teams earn automatic bids to the NCAA championships. Both squads will travel to State College, Pa., to compete in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships on Nov. 14.