For the second consecutive meet, the Owls’ cross country teams found themselves at a war with Mother Nature.
Facing heavy rain and slippery mud at the Penn State National Invitational last Friday, the men’s team placed 15th out of 18 teams, while the women’s team finished 27th out of 29th teams.
“The weather conditions affected everybody,” senior Ben Thomas said. “It especially had a big effect on the times, as they were all about a minute slower overall. But I would say considering the rain, we really handled the weather well.”
Although the teams’ rankings are relatively low, coach Matthew Jelley is confident his team is headed in the right direction.
“It wasn’t our best performance in terms of where we placed,” Jelley said. “But it was a good day as far as learning the lessons we need to learn to be successful in the future this season.”
Jelley also continues to see improvement in the program as a whole, which still remains in its infancy.
“The first year that I walked into the program, the third girl on the team was 23 minutes,” Jelley said. “Now we have 10 girls under 20 minutes. This team destroyed that team.”
Freshman Jenna Dubrow, coming off a school record-breaking 40th place finish at the Paul Short Invitational, led the women’s team yet again, finishing 107th overall with a time of 23:55. Dubrow, like Thomas, found the weather to be a significant obstacle in the race.
“It was like a ‘slip-n-slide’ out there,” Dubrow said. “I feel like under the weather conditions, I did pretty well. With all the mud, it was really a lot more competitive race than I’m used to, so I think I handled it pretty well.”
Finishing just behind Dubrow on the women’s side was junior Dierdre MacFarlane, followed by sophomores Taylor Goldsworthy and Erin Casey. All three finished within a minute of each other in the standings.
Freshman Matthew Kacyon led the men’s squad for the second straight meet, besting out teammate Philip Fanz by a mere four seconds. Senior Geoffrey Barletta and sophomore William Kellar followed the two runners.
The team continues to compete without star Travis Mahoney, who is redshirting this season.
Kellar, who was battling a stress fracture in his foot, found himself unable to participate in the Paul Short Invitational that was held Sept. 30. Returning to action at Penn State, Jelley was particularly impressed with his performance.
“He showed that he worked his butt off in the couple weeks he wasn’t able to practice with us,” Jelley said. “He worked in the pool and on the bike, and he had a nice race back and that gave him some confidence that his foot is OK. It was definitely really pleasant to have him back on the team.”
Kacyon, in his first season with the team, is quickly becoming acclimated to a life in collegiate athletics.
“Making the transition from high school to college is obviously different and difficult to get used to but finally I feel like I’m getting the string of things,” Kacyon said. “It’s going really well for me and I’m really having a good time on the team.”
Next up for the Owls will be the Atlantic Ten Championships on October 29 at the University of North Carolina. Last year, the men and women’s teams placed eighth and 13th respectively. This year, they are hoping to improve on both of those numbers, and Jelley is optimistic about their chances.
“The team I see now is much more competitive than the one we opened up with,” Jelley said. “They’re improving and making strides, and we’ll find out in a couple of weeks if it was improvement enough. But, in the end I think we’ll be ready for that conference championship.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com.