Cross Country Readies For Paul Short Run
ALBANY, N.Y. – A quick turnaround following the second meet of the season has the University at Albany cross country program staring down its next competition, the Paul Short Run at Lehigh University.
The first month of the 2017 season has taken an unorthodox form, with three weeks between the first two meets and then just one between meets two and three. Head Coach Matt Jones normally prefers a two weeks between meets in the fall to allow for a full training cycle, but the scheduling changed this season.
Last week, the Great Danes visited Franklin Park in Boston for the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown. The meet featured double-digit regionally ranked teams in both the men’s and the women’s races. The men placed 10th overall and the women placed 17th.
“I honestly believe that our result was a mixed review,”said Jones. “I believe it’s definitely a learning experience. I think the difference between the pre-conference meet and the Battle in Beantown was the size of the field. We have some room for improvement with larger field sizes, but that comes with the territory.
“The one area we’re trying to work on is to convert running to racing,” Jones continued. UMass Lowell’s men, for example, finishing sixth is a good benchmark for us. They had largely the same roster we saw at the pre-conference meet, but this time they just ran better. That’s something for us to work for down the road.”
Franklin Park is a traditional hotspot for cross country in the Northeast, but UAlbany hadn’t raced there since 2015. Additionally, the size of the field increased to about 20 teams, up from the three opposing teams the Great Danes faced in Vermont at the pre-conference meet.
“I think we got thrown a curveball with the start and size of the race,” said Jones. “What was encouraging, however, was we had two guys in the front of the men’s race. The key though, is to stay there as we move forward. When you have runners lead the race, then fade to 30th, and finish 16th, they were there. There’s an old line by an old Olympian half-miler: ‘If you don’t give it up, you don’t have to make it up.’ In the big picture everything is about energy expenditure. You have to trust your training, know your fitness, and expend energy appropriately. That’s how you move forward.”
Paul Short is another tradition race in Northeast cross country, and perhaps the largest the Great Danes will participate in all season. The meet regularly features around 400 runners in each division.
“We’re going down a day early and will run the course before the race, which we didn’t do for Boston,” said Jones. “But now we know what to look for: where to pass. What’s the footing like? Where do I have to put myself in position? Where can I make a move? It’s all learning.”
Both the men and the women will race in the highest-tier Gold Division. The men’s Gold field includes 40 teams, and the women’s features 43. It is the first 6K the women will run this year.
“We usually go to previous year’s results to gauge upcoming races,” said Jones. “Last year I think the men were in the 20s. I think the goal should be to finish in the top third of the race with a better average time and team gap than last year. We’ll use everyone around us to achieve our goals.”
Last year, the men finished 23rd out of 38 and the women finished 42nd out of 45. This year’s field includes 20 regionally ranked men’s teams, including Georgetown (Mid-Atlantic #1) and Navy (Mid-Atlantic #2), and 18 regionally ranked women’s teams, including Villanova (Mid-Atlantic #2), Mississippi State (South #3), and Utah State (Mountain #3). Among America East opponents, the Great Danes will see Stony Brook, Binghamton, and UMBC.
“We’re excited,” said Jones. “Even though we had a little bump in the road last week I think we’ll see some positives come out of that. We’re not happy with that completely, and we’re looking to move forward from it and I think we’re in a good position to do just that.”
The meet begins at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, September 29 with the men’s Open 8K. The men’s Gold race will begin at 11:00 a.m. followed by the women’s Gold race at 11:45 a.m.
“In this race, two runners finish every second in the middle of the race for a long period of time,” said Jones. “The important thing in a meet like this is to find your teammates and work with them. Look at last weekend. Ryan was up front and Kyle was 50 spots behind him, but when they finished the gap between them was 20 seconds. But they are two different guys with different sets of strengths and weaknesses and their race plans need to reflect that. That is what we’re working on. Modifying race plans to meet the strengths of the individual runner.”