The men’s and women’s cross country teams each will resume their season tomorrow up at Penn State for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional meet. This will be the final tune-up for the runners before Nationals. It will test each team in a race environment prior to the NCAA Championships next Saturday. Expectations are high for both teams which could use/need momentum from this race.
The men are coming off an impressive performance at the Big East Championship meet. There is no other way to describe the dominance by Villanova over the rest of the field. Yet the season is long, and the team has to remain hungry.
No doubt, satisfaction existed after the great performance two weeks ago, but this team has had no choice but to move on from the high point of their season so far. Villanova is trying to maintain its focus on the grand prize: the NCAA championships.
However, it will have one more race to go before it gets the opportunity to compete against the best the nation has to offer.
The team will head into the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional meet with a goal of winning, but top runner Patrick Tiernan said he will have no individual aspirations for the race.
“My only goal for this week is to get the team to nationals, so the plan for us is to run as a pack, and hopefully not exert ourselves too much in qualifying for nationals,” Tiernan said.
Tiernan explained that the “pack approach” worked well at Indianapolis ,where Villanova went 1-2-3 on their way to the Big East Championship victory. The Wildcats will hope to duplicate that success Friday.
“Head Coach Marcus O’Sullivan put it best early this week when he told us that we should see this race as a semi-final, where nationals is the final,” Tiernan said. “If we can do something similar to what we accomplished at Princeton, I think it will set us up perfectly for the following week.”
So it seems as stated earlier that for the men while a win is in sight, the expectations tomorrow should be tempered a bit. O’Sullivan recognizes he has a talented group and does not want tomorrow’s race to interfere with the team’s ability to perform at Nationals. Saving the best for last, appears to be the theme shared between the coaches and runners. Hopefully, the strategy pays off.
The women are also coming off a strong performance, finishing fourth at the Big East Championship meet. They, too, will look to win their race at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional meet.
The season has had up and downs for the women’s team, but that is to be expected with the amount of young runners they have. There are still two races remaining in the season and that’s what the women will have to focus on.
Cross country is truly a year-round sport with all the training that goes into the offseason. One can’t expect to perform at the highest level and take off running for a few weeks or a month.
This is why even if the focus for 2014 goes into next year when the idea of winning this year’s NCAA Championships becomes unrealistic, it is important to use these competitive races as practice.
Here at Villanova we have been spoiled with talent on both the men’s and women’s cross country teams.
The season isn’t over yet, but it is important to point out that both teams are young with an arrow pointing upwards for next year. Whatever happens at Penn State tomorrow or in Indianapolis on the 22nd at the national meet, both teams should be satisfied with what they have accomplished so far.