Cross-country put to test at Buff State

For head coach Mike Woods, the 2012 cross-country season will be quite distinct from the 20 others he has coached at Geneseo.

In the past four years, the Geneseo cross-country and track and field programs have been graced with superstars, most notably 2012 graduates Lee Berube, Eddie Novara and Mark Streb. The trio tested the Geneseo records and brought home more individual and championship titles than you can count on two hands.

Despite the departure of last year’s seniors, Woods said that he doesn’t have lower expectations.

“We’re going to have a very good team,” he said. “It’s going to be a different kind of team.”

Instead of having “that upfront strength” from last year, as Woods recalled, Geneseo will run in packs. Last season, he said, the group was well spread out due to frontrunner Berube.

The athletes are remaining in groups in other ways too. Despite the loss of its key seniors, the men’s team is “fired up to go in there and do better than what [they] did last year,” Woods said. “This group has really gone out of its way to keep people together, keep people’s eyes on the prize and keep people believing in themselves.”

In the season opener on Friday Aug. 31, the cross-country B teams came out strong at the Daniel Walker Invitational at Buffalo State College. The women’s side earned 62 points in a third-place finish among 10 teams, while the men’s team finished fifth of nine with 116 points.

Leading the Geneseo women’s pack was senior Cailin Kowalewski, who finished fifth in 19 minutes, 25 seconds. Kowalewski, who played soccer the past three years and runs both indoor and outdoor track and field, decided to make the switch to cross-country this year.

“I think [Kowalewski] will be able to make the adjustment,” Woods said. “We’re trying to demystify the longer distance for her. It’s not as tough as she thought it was.”

Freshmen Ashton Hughes, Shannon Murphy and Kylie Ryan as well as senior Erin Dorset rounded out the top five of the seven who scored for Geneseo.

On the men’s side, freshman Brendan Wortner finished 19th in 27:48 with sophomore Matt Byrnes and freshmen Joe Chapman and Mike Custance trailing close behind.

“[Wortner] is going to make strides as we go along. He’s very well prepared,” Woods said. Wortner joins his older brother, junior Patrick Wortner, on the team this year.

“Having Patrick [Wortner] as his brother, Patrick [Wortner] can say, ‘Hey, this is what it’s going to be like’ and … help him make the transition,” Woods said.

Geneseo’s top runners will test out the competition on Saturday Sept. 8 at Pennsylvania State University for their season opener.