Much like the Harry Groves Invitational at Pennsylvania State University, the Geneseo men’s and women’s cross-country teams went into the Western Invitational on Saturday Sept. 21 with little expectation. “Well, you know, you just break it down to the bare-minimum essentials,” head coach Mike Woods said of his game plan going into the race.
In addition to the largely unknown competition heading to another country, the Knights haven’t raced at this course, nearby Western Ontario University in Canada, in six years - factors that made preparing difficult but also carefree.
“My mindset going off to that race was just to have fun,” co-captain junior Cohen Miles-Rath said. Miles-Rath came in 13th place overall, first for Geneseo, with a time of 25 minutes and 55 seconds, a whole minute faster than the week prior.
The team finished in eighth place out of 18 teams, which, on paper, may not seem like much to be proud of. Looking at the statistics, however, helps bring the true picture into focus.
The Knights’ top five finished within 42 seconds of one another, a six-second improvement from the race at Penn State. The average time in this race was 26:22. At Penn State it was 27:08. Runners three through five for Geneseo finished within 12 seconds of one another at Penn State and within five seconds of each other at this race. The course conditions were very sloppy, according to Woods, which made these improvements even more impressive.
As long as we keep moving in the right direction, all I can see is going up,” Miles-Rath said.
The end result for the women was very similar to that of the men, but the story getting there was not the same.
“The women went out real tentatively because there were hills [in the first mile],” Woods said. “We went out in the middle of the pack and there just wasn’t enough room through the first mile and a half to move up.”
Co-captain junior Cassie Goodman finished 18th overall in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 18:57.
Woods said that about halfway through the race, Goodman was “probably 55th or 56th” but was able to “make a really good move” to finish in the top 20.
The rest of the runners held their own and were able to finish within 35 seconds of Goodman, something Woods said he was excited about. Runners two through five finished within 12 seconds of one another.
“We had our best one-through-five pack of the year with 35 seconds,” Woods said. He added, “Our goal is to get under 40 seconds, and they did on a tough course.” The team finished ninth overall.
The next race for the Knights is not until the Geneseo Invitational at Letchworth State Park, right in Geneseo’s backyard. This race will include competition the Knights are used to facing on a regular basis. Geneseo runs this course frequently in practice, so the runners will not have the unknown factors facing them as in these past two races. The race is set for Oct. 5.