On Saturday, Oct. 1, both the women’s and the men’s cross country teams placed 17th in the Brown race of the annual Paul Short Run at Lehigh University’s Goodman Campus. The course winds along eight kilometers for the men and six for the women on flat fields and parking lots, leading to quick times and fewer surprises. Paul Short brings teams together from across the nation, from the University of Florida to Dartmouth College to the United States Military Academy.

“Top to bottom this may be the best quality field we’ve ever had at the Paul Short Run, between nationally ranked teams at all levels, and regionally ranked teams,” Todd Etters, head coach of the Lehigh University men’s cross country team, told lehighsports.com earlier this year.

Forty-five teams and 401 runners competed in the men’s race, while 42 teams and 373 individuals ran in the women’s. The Paul Short Run was divided into the Gold, Brown, and White races. Though each had a mix of different divisions, Division I filled most of the Gold race, while an overwhelming majority of Division III teams competed in the White race. The Brown race, for its part, fielded a more even mix of the two. Overall, 117 men’s teams and 128 women’s teams competed, including fellow NESCAC schools Amherst, Conn College, Trinity, Tufts, and Williams. However, only Amherst’s women’s team and Trinity’s men’s team ran for their respective schools.

Will Dudek ’17 came in first for the Cardinal men and eighth in the Brown race overall with a time of 24:53, followed by Reid Hawkins ’17 in 57th (25:34), Tate Knight ’18 at 79th (25:44), Joshua Signore ’19 at 200th (26:42), Kevin McMorrow ’20 at 212th (26:49), William Bajohr ’20 at 217th (26:52), and Shota Nakamura ’19 at 255th (27:18). The total added to 556, six points behind Ithaca College and four ahead of Nebraska Wesleyan University. In NESCAC racing, the men placed behind Middlebury and Conn College but ahead of Trinity.

Caroline Elmendorf ’17 led the women’s team and placed 44th with a time of 22:10, chased by Molly Schassberger ’17 five seconds and five places later. After Schassberger came Julia Mitchell ’19 at 93rd (22:40), Hannah Gillis ’20  at 161st (23:18), Rhoen Fiutak ’19 at 168th (23:24), Sara Pinsonault ’20 at 194th (23:45), and Morgan Findley ’18 at 209th (23:54). The runners combined for a total of 515, 27 points behind the State University of New York at Cortland in 16th and 8 points ahead of Nebraska Wesleyan, who also followed directly behind the men. The women’s team also finished third out of four NESCAC teams in the Brown race, coming ahead of Conn. College but behind Middlebury and Amherst.

The men left Lehigh slightly sobered, as the team did not perform quite as well as expected and was beaten by teams such as Allegheny College and Haverford College, whom the Cards beat last year at nationals by nine spots and one spot, respectively. The race marks the first outside test for the team, who faced no competition at the Wesleyan Invitational on Sept. 16.

“I do know that we have the potential to run a lot faster and to compete for a top spot in the region,” Dudek said. “So coming off the weekend we’re keeping our heads up and getting ready for a tough few weeks of training.”

For the women, the day took on a cheerier tone. Though numerically the team also placed 17th, their trajectory is more positive. The team had a much less rocky continuation of a slower upward climb, coming in ahead of or near teams against which the Cards had not previously been competitive. They placed nine spots ahead of the University of Rochester, who last year took 14th at the National Championship, and were only six places behind Johns Hopkins University, who took fourth at Nationals last year. The race also continued the establishment of positions within the team, now particularly significant since the Cards’ ability to compete with nationally ranked teams puts the chance to compete at nationals within the team’s reach.

The mixed result has only left the team more determined.

“At this point we need to do the rest of the talking with our legs,” Dudek said.

The Argus had the chance to speak with Elmendorf, who touched on many of these issues.

Argus: What was the mood of the race? How were people feeling going in, and how did people feel coming out?
Caroline Elmendorf: The women’s team felt strong going in, because most people feel like they’re in better shape this year than last year, the workouts have been going well, and most people are healthy and uninjured right now.
A: How well did people do relative to expectations?
CE: I think that the women’s team has a lot to look forward to in the future, given our finish at the race. We underperformed in the race compared to our fitness right now; many people felt that they have room for improvement for the next race, and we still managed a better-than-previous-years’ showing against NESCAC competition. So although we had hoped to race better as a team, we haven’t lowered our expectations for the season.
A: There was a ton of serious competition in these races, Middlebury and (for the women especially) Johns Hopkins, just to name a few. Did that make things different at all?
CE: Having better competition at Paul Short compared to our other races this season was a big difference, because it meant that everyone had people to race against. Some of the best cross country teams are in our region, but this is our one regular season meet that shows how competitive we can be against teams from other regions, which is important for the end of the season.
A: Paul Short is quite a flat course. Did that help or hinder certain players or teams?
CE: This course is notoriously flat and fast compared to many of the courses we run in New England. It’s helpful to everyone as a way to compare fitness from year to year, but since our team trains a lot on our home course, which is hilly and has bad footing, we’ll have an advantage at our home meet in two weeks and the NESCAC Championships at Colby in four weeks.
A: Was it different to run with a packed course? Did it physically change things?
CE: The strategy does have to be different when we’re running with several hundred other runners at once, especially because the Lehigh course bottlenecks after only a couple hundred meters. It means that we have to concentrate on getting out well, and more importantly we have to learn how to not panic or spend energy worrying about getting boxed in early on, because there’s always room later to pass people. The biggest difference with running in such a large crowd is just learning how to run our own races and not worry about other people; we need to use the competition to push us but not waste our energy.

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