Men’s cross country wins home meet, finishes strong at Boston
The men’s cross country team began the 2019 season on Sept. 7 like it does most seasons: by winning its home meet. The Big Green was then met with a much greater test of its strength in the form of the Boston College Coast-to-Coast Invitational. There, it placed seventh among a competitive group of 21 schools. After a strong but imperfect meet, the team is optimistic for the remainder of the fall season.
The Big Green beat out Brown University, the University of Hartford and the University of Maine at its race in Hanover earlier this month. Dartmouth typically begins its season in this fashion to allow the incoming freshman class to ease its way into college cross country.
“The most important thing about the meet is to give our first-year runners a chance to see what a college race is going to feel like,” said head coach Barry Harwick. “We can kind of control the environment to a certain extent since it’s our home meet. So, I thought that went very well for us. We won easily, [it was a] beautiful day, had a lot of family and alums up there, so that was very successful for us.”
A little under two weeks later, the team traveled to Boston for the Coast-to-Coast Invitational. There, the team beat out Ivy competitors University of Pennsylvania and Brown University as well as large programs like The Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of New Hampshire to earn its seventh place finish. However, the Big Green did not overtake the likes of Syracuse University, which won the meet, or Ivy League foe Harvard University.
“[It’s] much more challenging [against] nationally ranked teams, other Ivy League schools,” Harwick said. “I would say we had a good result, not a great result.”
The seventh-place finish in Boston was fueled by an impressive showing from team captain Quinn Cooney ’19 TH ’20.
“Quinn Cooney had a pretty phenomenal race — he did a great job,” Harwick said. “He finished seventh in a field of almost 200 runners. That was a very strong race for him.”
Due to injuries and missed seasons earlier in his career, Cooney has been able to maintain his place on the roster as he finishes his bachelor of engineering at the Thayer School of Engineering.
“I feel really good about [Friday],” Cooney said. “It’s definitely a big step for me, making the leap up to the top group of that meet. It’s pretty promising for me and definitely really exciting.”
As a fifth-year student, Cooney has been able to use his experience to lead the squad. Although Cooney was humble in describing his position as captain as “making sure people don’t get lost in the forest sometimes,” his coach emphasized his role as a leader on the team.
“His experience and his leadership — he had a phenomenal summer of training — I think has set a very strong example for the other guys on the team,” Harwick said.
Harwick was able to take all healthy Dartmouth runners to Boston, since the meet had an open 5k race. But there were only ten slots for the championship level 8k race. From the Class of 2023, Jake Winslow ’23 competed in the 8-kilometer race Friday — an impressive accomplishment for a first-year student. Two other first-years, Brendan Balthis ’23 and James Lawrence ’23 have been running well too according to Harwick.
In addition to the value added by Cooney and the Class of 2023, the Big Green was led by runners like Owen Ritz ’21, Benjamin Matejka ’21 and Liam Jamieson ’22. Each of the runners competed in the 8k race Friday, with Ritz placing 32nd, Matejka 37th and Jamieson 42nd.
While the talent is certainly there, a bout of injuries has plagued the team, delaying the appearances of some of its top runners. However, next to none of the injuries will end those runners’ seasons.
“We tend to take a more cautious approach … even if somebody is banged up a little bit, we’re not going to take a chance and have them race right now,” Harwick said. “Because now we have another two weeks before we race again, and while two weeks is not an enormous amount of time, I think that should be enough for at least some of the guys to get back there. It is kind of a tradeoff. Are you willing to be patient now to get some people healthier for later on?”
According to Harwick, the team’s goal this year is to be on the starting line of the NCAA Regional Championship with the goal of qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
Last season, the team placed fourth in the NCAA Northeast Regional Championships, but failed to qualify for the National Championships. According to both Harwick and Cooney, Cooney was just seconds short of qualifying to go to the National Championship individually. This year, Cooney has certainly progressed, and his chances for individual qualification look better than ever.
“I’m in a really good position to run well at those later meets,” he said. “I’m coming off a really big block of training over the last six weeks.”
To achieve that goal, Cooney and the team are starting to transition their training strategies. In the summer and the start of the season, the team’s workouts mainly consist of attaining volume — long distances at slower-than-race pace. But as the season progresses, the team will reduce its weekly mileage and focus more on speed.
Overall, the runners are optimistic for the season coming up.
“Once we do a little more speed work and we get some of our guys back, we’ll be really firing in a few weeks,” Cooney said.
The Big Green’s next race is the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University on Oct. 5. Other notable dates for the team are the Nov. 1 Ivy League Heptagonal Championship and the NCAA Northeast Regional Meet on Nov. 15.