Cross-country holds its own against elite competition

Last week, head coach of the men and women's cross-country teams Mike Woods said that he was "positive" the men's squad would contend for national title, a bold statement considering the team had yet to lace up its racing shoes for an official meet.

This past weekend, the Knights had their first opportunity to validate their coach's guarantee - against Division I competition.

The Knights responded as their coach said he expected them to, like national title contenders. The men placed fifth out 16 teams and the women were not far behind, placing seventh out of 10 teams at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoes Invitational hosted by Penn State University.

Geneseo's placement in the results wasn't necessarily indicative of the teams' potential, since both the men and women were running against top Division I programs including Princeton University, Georgetown University and the United States Naval Academy.

"They went out there and battled really hard," Woods said. "I think we impressed a lot of people."

Woods said that for the men in particular, this weekend marked a huge steppingstone. "The guys really put together a good race, they really did," Woods said. "I was really happy with how they ran; they could have mailed it in but they didn't."

Junior All-American Lee Berube led the Knights, coming in 13th overall with a time of 25 minutes, 53 seconds. Right behind him was another All-American, junior transfer Eddie Novara who placed 16th overall with a time of 25:55.

Though the prospect of a national title may be a little bit farther off for the women, they still ran a solid race. Sophomore Marissa Liberati paced the Knights, coming in 25th overall with a time of 22:01.

The biggest hurdle for the women remains tightening up the gap between Liberati and the rest of the squad. At this weekend's invitational, Liberati was 1 minute, 19 seconds ahead of everyone else, something that must be addressed if the team wants to contend.

"A minute and 19 seconds will not get us to the NCAA [finals]," said Woods, who also said that he'd be surprised if the margin was still that wide by next weekend.

The Knights will continue their race to the top this weekend as they travel to SUNY Oneonta on Friday, Sept. 17 to face the Red Dragons.