The Slippery Rock University cross country season continued last Saturday at the Lock Haven Invitational.
The men’s race consisted of 15 teams and a total of 244 runners.
Nationally ranked Lock Haven won the invitational with a mere 21 points, while the Rock tied with Carnegie Mellon for second place with 93 points each. This meet showed improvement for the men’s team since Carnegie Mellon narrowly beat SRU last weekend at the Mack Cooper Classic.
Susquehanna earned fourth place with 132 points, and Penn State cross country club placed fifth with 169 points to round off the top teams.
Senior Morgan Elliott was the Rock’s top finisher in seventh overall, finishing with a time of 25:24, exactly one second faster than the time he recorded on the same course the previous year.
“It was the first race in a while that I didn’t cramp up, so it was nice to push the pace a little more than usual” says Elliott. “It’s still early in the season and it’s hard to compare ourselves to Lock Haven’s performance. We all run as a pack and it’s always really close between our top runners. Anybody our team can take the reigns and become our number one guy.”
Slippery Rock’s top five was rounded out by junior Chris Grooms in 19th place at 25:26, senior Michael Beegle in 21st with a time of 25:58, senior Alex Koksal in 24th with a time of 26:00, and junior Jaron Martin in 28th place, finishing with a time of 26:03.
The Slippery Rock women’s cross country team placed fourth overall on Saturday out of sixteen competing schools.
Marywood University and Mansfield University tied for first place with 87 points each, the Penn State cross country club took third with 91 points, the Rock placed fourth with 119 points, and Kutztown completed the top five with 126 points.
Senior Kara Styles led the women’s team with a stellar performance in her first race of the season She finished seventh overall with a time of 23:01.
The top five was rounded out by sophomore Jenny Picot in 20th with a time of 22:43, sophomore Karly Knechtel in 26th in 23:01, freshman Sarah Wirth 32nd with a time of 23:13, and sophomore Brittany Fagan, who placed 34th with a time of 23:16.
Styles was overall very happy with her first meet of the season.
“I didn’t really know what to expect with it being my first race of the year, so it was a very pleasant surprise,” says Styles.
Janine Powis, who placed first at the Mack Cooper Classic in the season opener was not available to race at Lock Haven, but will be back to compete in the next race.
“Janine and I are together all the time for workouts, so I’m excited about seeing how workouts can translate to a race,” Styles adds.
John Papa, head coach for both men and women’s cross country, has been very pleased with his teams’ overall performances in the first two races.
“Our opener last weekend was an opportunity to get the rust off, especially since our course is relatively challenging,” Papa said. “This last week at Lock Haven was great. The course is flat, which makes the race much faster. If the race is faster, then the competition gets to be a lot tougher. Based on the results, I believe our athletes ran a lot better this week than they did the previous week,” Papa explained.
The men’s and women’s teams do not race this weekend, but will resume the following week at the Division I Louisville Classic.