Last weekend, the Geneseo cross country team hosted the 27th Annual Geneseo Cross Country Invitational in Letchworth State Park. On a brisk but sunny Saturday, over a dozen men's and women's teams from local colleges arrived at Letchworth to compete.
By the end of the event, the women's team had taken first place with a perfect score of 15 points, placing an astounding six runners in the top 10 and beating second-place Ohio Northern by 81 points. The men's team finished second overall with 40 points, compared to 24 points for first place Ohio Northern. "We knew going into the race that we wouldn't have too much competition but we just went out there and competed like we usually do," said sophomore Danielle Hunt, who finished sixth in the race. "I don't think any of us expected to get a perfect score."Junior Liz Montgomery finished first for the women with a time of 21:18.3, followed closely by senior Meghan Nolan at 21:42.5. Junior Laura Iafrati finished third, senior Taryn Hand placed fourth, Hunt placed sixth and sophomore Sandra Goettelman finished eighth.
"Knowing the course is definitely an advantage," said Iafrati. "We've done multiple workouts at Letchworth so we feel more comfortable than other teams, plus the support we get from alumni, parents and other sports teams was quite possibly at its peak at this meet."
For Montgomery, the race held some extra significance as an opportunity to appreciate the leadership of her senior teammates. "This meet is our 'Senior Race' of the season where the seniors are recognized before the start of the race," she said. "When everyone on the line around me took a step forward, I was motivated by how much they have all given to our program. "
The team is coming off one of the most memorable and impressive cross country seasons in Geneseo history. Last year, the women captured titles in the SUNYAC conference, the New York State Collegiate Track Conference and the Atlantic Region en route to a ninth-place finish in the NCAA championship meet. They are attempting to repeat that performance this year, and seem to be off to a very good start with three first-place finishes in four races.
"We're always aiming for November Regionals and Nationals, so it is certainly on our minds," Montgomery said. "This year the competition is much better as well, so we know it won't be easy, but so many of our girls have improved since last year and are really making a statement."
The men's team, meanwhile, is also performing at a high level. They finished second this weekend to a very tough Ohio Northern team, placing seven runners in the top 15 of the race. Senior Ryan Mulcahy finished in third place with a time of 25:51.1, just three seconds behind the leader. Junior Will Haskell finished seventh and junior Nate Lockett placed ninth, followed by sophomore Jesse Berube in 10th. Freshman Ryan O'Connor finished in 11th, sophomore Tim Chichester finished 12th and junior Brett Dolan placed 13th.
"It was essentially a two team race between Ohio and Geneseo," said Haskell. "We knew going into the meet that it would be a tough race, Ohio is currently ranked 11th in the nation to our 15th."
"We are happy with the race because the team is starting to come together at the right time," added Lockett. "And although we are not ready to compete at the SUNYAC and National championships yet, we are on the right track and we have plenty of time to get where we need to be."
Like the women's team, the Geneseo men's team was very competitive last season. They finished second in the SUNYACs, first in the NYSCTC and 14th in the NCAA meet. Prior to last weekend's race, they were ranked 15th in the nation at the Division III level.
So far this season, they have three second place finishes in four meets, but the runners seem unconcerned.
"We may have taken some losses early this season, but it is only a reflection of the quality teams we have put ourselves up against," said Haskell. "It's a long season and we have our eyes set on peaking in November when it counts."
Lockett actually prefers the way his team is performing this season. "I would rather finish second like we have this year than go into the SUNYAC championship undefeated like last year," he said. "Last year we came out of the gates too ready to compete and we left our best races on the courses prior to the championship season."
"We have six weeks until the regional meet and seven until the NCAA meet," said Mulcahy. "A lot of things can happen in the next 40 days."
Both teams vow improvement, but, at the moment, both the men and women are looking strong heading down the stretch of the season.