Young cross-country team has high hopes

The Geneseo men’s and women’s cross-country teams have a combined 24 straight NCAA appearances, a tradition set by head coach Mike Woods. And after the Daniel Walker Invitational Aug. 30, it’s safe to say the winning tradition is not lost on the freshmen. Woods said he uses the invitational as a warm-up for the newcomers so they can “get their feet wet” to cross-country at the collegiate level, but it seemed more like the freshmen dove head first into their first college meet.

On the men’s side, the Knights claimed nine of the top 12 spots, including first overall. Freshman Matt Jorgensen, who took first place, posted a time of 25 minutes, 55 seconds, beating the second-place runner by 20 seconds.

“He is a legit runner,” Woods said. Jorgensen was Woods’ top recruit, and he said is already proving his worth. “[He will] certainly be in our top seven and possibly the top five before the year is over,” he said.

The spotlight doesn’t solely belong to Jorgensen, as freshman Adam Murphy came in third, just 24 seconds behind Jorgensen. Not far behind Murphy, the next nine Geneseo runners finished within a minute of one another and took seven consecutive spots.

Woods said he wasn’t surprised by the outcome of the meet.

“I knew I had a great recruiting class on the men’s side for freshmen, and now it’s starting to take shape,” he said.

The women’s team performed similarly, earning second, third and fourth in the race and having seven runners finish in the top 12.

Woods said he had nothing but praise for his women runners, most notably for freshman Marissa Bellusci. Woods said Bellusci had a “down” senior year in high school, but that did not stop him from recruiting her. Bellusci finished in second with a time of 19:43.

“Boy, did she look good Friday,” Woods said. “She was running really well.”

Freshmen Ashley Peppriell and Sara Rosenzweig were not far behind, both finishing at 19:46.

It looked as if graduating seven runners from the men’s team and six from the women’s would create a lull in this year’s season, but that does not seem to be the case. Woods said there is a lot of depth in both teams and he is hopeful for more NCAA success.

The next race is not for another two weeks, but Woods said he is not worried about the time between meets. He said the runners really buy into his philosophy of training more and competing less. It allows the team to really “go to the well,” he said, come race day

On Sept. 13, the Knights travel to Pennsylvania State University to compete against top-tier programs and Division I teams at the Harry Groves Invitational. Woods will take the top 20 runners with him, and after their first go at collegiate-level races, multiple freshmen have promising chances to make the roster.