Cross country takes first place against tough competition

The Knights saw another phenomenal performance of the men’s and women’s cross country teams on Saturday Sept. 24 when both squads crossed the finish line first at the Purple Valley Classic hosted by Williams College. This marks the second time this season that the Knights have taken first place in both races. What makes this double first-place more incredible, however, is the field that both Geneseo teams went up against.

“This was a big test for both the teams,” head coach Dan Moore said. “Entering the land of the [New England Small College Athletic Conference] schools to face out of region competition provided both teams an extremely competitive field.”

At the time, the second place nationally ranked men’s squad found themselves up against the third ranked host Williams College, sixth place Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tenth place Amherst College and number 19 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Geneseo blew by some of the top teams in the nation, putting up four of the top 10 runners and scoring 48 points, outpacing runner-up Williams who had 64.

Leading the eight-kilometer charge and grasping first place for the second time of the year was junior Isaac Garcia-Cassani with a time of 25:24.9. Garcia-Cassani’s dominance in recent weeks also landed him the honor of Division III Men’s Cross Country National Athlete of the Week.

The women’s squad also came into the meet ranked second in the nation and had an even more impressive field to face off against: defending national champions Williams, fifth place MIT, sixth place Tufts University, number 10 Wisconsin-La Crosse, number 11 RPI and number 14 Ithaca College.

The women won their race with less of a cushion than their male counterparts, putting up 65 to outpace MIT’s 71 and Williams’ 100, but would succeed in placing their five finishers in the top 20. It was senior Sara Rosenzweig who crossed the line sixth place with a time of 22:19.4 with senior teammate Marissa Cossaro six seconds behind.

Heading into the match, Moore explained that the strategy was a simple, yet effective one. “The NESCAC schools know this course very well,” Moore said. “The plan was to pack it up with the teams who knew the course the best and hang with them until our aerobic fitness endured over the others.”

Both squads also kept together for much of the race in order to support each other. “Pack running is extremely important on multiple fronts; the tighter the pack, the more difficult it is for other teams to break apart the runners,” Moore said. “The pack also provides motivation, as teammates are in close proximity to each other and they are great about encouraging one another as they compete.”

By claiming first in both races, one or both teams may find themselves claiming the title of first in the nation by the end of the week.

“Overall, the plan played out in our favor,” Moore said. “It was a great win for both programs and gives the team momentum and confidence moving forward.”

Both squads run next on their home turf at Letchworth State Park for the Mike Woods Invitational on Saturday Oct. 1.