Cross Country Visits Lehigh For Paul Short Invitational
ALBANY, N.Y. – The University at Albany men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to Pennsylvania this weekend to compete in Lehigh University’s 40th Paul Short Invitational. The meet will be both teams’ third of the year, having competed in the America East Pre-Conference meet and Iona College’s Br. Doyle Meet of Champions.
“I’ve actually never seen this course before,” said head coach Matt Jones. “I’ve heard from others that it can get muddy, but conditions are supposed to be good this weekend. Our plan is to arrive Friday and run the course for the first time that afternoon.”
This weekend’s course is the first of the season the Danes will not visit again for another race, but features a higher level of competition than they have faced in their two meets so far.
“We’re really going to this meet for the competition, both individually and collectively,” said Jones. “This meet will be our first really quality test.”
UAlbany will be competing in the event for the fifth time since 1999, and first since 2003. 3,836 collegiate athletes from 290 schools are expected to descend upon Lehigh’s campus to race this weekend, in addition to 2,117 high school athletes from 163 schools. Nintey-two unattached runners are scheduled to compete as well.
“It will be a learning experience for our younger athletes,” said Jones, commenting on the size of the meet. “But we need to do it to be better later.”
The men’s and women’s races are broken up into three sections. The fastest teams will race in the Gold section, the next fastest teams will race in the Brown, and any remaining teams will race in the White. Teams competing in these sections are limited to fielding ten athletes. The race also features an open section which has no limits on athlete participation per team.
The men’s team will compete in the 8K Brown race that starts at 12:15 p.m. In the field of 47 teams is Monmouth, ranked 14th in the Mid-Atlantic region, and Princeton, who is ranked first in the Mid-Atlantic and ninth nationally, but who will also be sending athletes to the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday.
“I think the men are appropriately placed,” said Jones. “We have some guys who can race near the front, but we need to see how close we are with our back end. The determination for success will be how we do in-conference, and the conference championship will be the culminating event of our efforts.”
The women’s team is competing in the 6K Gold race, which will kick off at 11:45 a.m. The women are coming off a team victory at Iona’s Meet of Champions two weeks ago, and are currently ranked 15th in the Northeast region. The women have already beaten four Northeast-ranked teams head-to-head this season, but Saturday’s meet features by far the deepest field they have competed against. The Gold race features eight Northeast-ranked schools, setting up rematches with three of the four teams the Danes have defeated (Iona, Brown, and Vermont).
“The women have hit a bit of a rough patch with injuries and illnesses recently, but we’re still looking for quality races from our top healthy girls, said Jones. “We want to see how our front end competes against other Northeast runners, and we want to see how our back end is developing. The results of this race will help determine which section of the Pre-Nationals meet we will qualify for.”
Beyond the Northeast, the women’s Gold field includes 21 regionally ranked schools from around the country representing the South, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, Great Lakes, South Central, and Mountain regions. Additionally, among the field of 48 are five nationally ranked squads: Georgetown (6), defending champion Cornell (10), Villanova (12), Penn State (13), and West Virginia (29).
Coach Jones said he was pleased with the way the team has been training.
“Our training has gone well. The men are progressing nicely. The women are a bit injured but I think we’re in a good spot overall. The big thing now will be to convert the quality training we’ve done into quality racing.”