Cross country teams falter at Heptagonal Championships

| 11/3/15 6:01pm

The men’s and women’s cross country teams failed to produce the results they were hoping for at the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships. Strong individual performances from Dana Giordano ’16, who placed second in the women’s race, and Brian Masterson ’16, who placed sixth in the men’s, were highlights of the teams’ performances at Van Cortlandt Park this past Friday.

As the two-time reigning champions, the women struggled to a last-place finish with 151 points, and the men, fourth place last year, fell to sixth with 103 points.

Giordano led the way for the women, completing the six-kilometer course in 20:55.4 — eight seconds behind the first-place runner and half a second in front of the third-place finisher — to place second and earn All-Ivy first-team honors. Giordano also placed second in last year’s Heps cross country championships.

“One of the positives of the race was [Giordano]’s performance,” women’s head coach Courtney Jaworski said. “She had a wonderful day — she was in the lead pack all the way through three [kilometers] and with about a mile to go, she was in sixth but she really turned it on. It was a really great, competitive effort from her.”

Behind Giordano, the Big Green had four more runners crack the top 50 — Helen Schlachtenhaufen ’17 (21st in 22:02.3), Reid Watson ’16 (31st in 22:14.7), Liz Markowitz ’16 (48th in 22:39.6) and Bridget O’Neill ’18 (49th in 22:41.6). Just outside the scoring five were Sarah Bennett ’16 (54th in 22:45.4) and Olivia Lantz ’19 (59th in 22:50.6).

On the men’s side, Masterson placed sixth, finishing the eight-kilometer course in 24:36.8. Joey Chapin ’16 (15th in 25:13.6) and Julian Heninger ’17 (19th in 25:20.3) also ran strong races on the hilly course.

“I was very happy with my performance individually, but that was quickly overshadowed by my disappointment at our team’s finish,” Masterson said. “We’ve gone into Heps the past two years thinking we had a chance to win, but we haven’t been able to perform on the day.”

Rounding out the scoring individuals on the men’s side were Nat Adams ’17 (31st in 25:29.7) and Daniel Salas ’17 (32nd in 25:29.8).

“The team was in a very good place at the starting line, mentally,” men’s head coach and track and field director Barry Harwick ’77 said. “The course tends to narrow down quickly, but I thought we were in [a] very good position when we entered the woods. By the time we exited the woods, we had a bunch of guys lose a lot of places. I thought that this course would play to our strengths, given the terrain that we run on in Hanover, but it wasn’t the case.”

The coaching staff was left searching for answers after sub-optimal performances in both races.

“When some guys run an outstanding race, but other guys who ran the exact same training program struggle, that’s always tough to figure out,” Harwick said.

Both Harwick and Jaworski emphasized the importance of keeping Dartmouth runners together during the race and working together toward the teams’ success.

“One of the things that we’ve been working on throughout the season is running in packs,” Jaworski said. “But for some reason, with this meet, it wasn’t something that they executed well.”

Both coaches reiterated how this strategy of running in a tight pack will be what the team will focus on at the NCAA East Regional meet on Nov. 13.

“We averaged about 20 seconds between our first and fifth runners all season, but this race we had a 53-second spread [between the first and fifth runners],” Harwick said. “If we can get back to a 30 second spread, I think we can beat many of the teams that beat us at Heps.”

Both teams will have one hard workout this week and then will begin to taper — decreasing how much they run in order to rest and sharpen up for the regional meet. The teams will also focus on keeping their confidence and mental strength up.

“One thing to harp on is the idea of confidence, that they’re a very fit, talented, strong team,” Jaworski said. “They’ve made these physical jumps from last year to this year, and just trusting that and being confident is another mental jump that they need to make. Helping them to believe and know that they’re that fit will kind of help pull a lot of that out.”