In their first home meet of the season, the Slippery Rock University men’s cross-country team took home a third-place overall finish at the Mack Cooper Invitational on Saturday.
Malone University won the meet with an impressive showing of 32 points and five of the top 10 finishers.
“We rarely see Malone, they have a great team and lot of great runners,” head coach John Papa said of the out-of-conference Pioneers.
Second-ranked in the Atlantic region, Shippensburg University claimed second with 43 points. Following Slippery Rock in third place was Kutztown University at fourth place with 97 points. West Chester University rounded out the top five at 133 points.
California University (Pa.), Glennville State University, University of Lock Haven and West Liberty also participated. Papa praised the selection of schools that competed.
“There was a lot of great competition here, between our conference and the out-of-conference,” Papa said.
Papa was pleased with his team’s placement.
“Our guys looked pretty good. Especially Jeremy [Parsons] and John [Marenkovic]. Our three, four and five guys just need to tighten that pack up a little bit, because that’s where you can lose a lot of points,” Papa said.
Cooper’s Lake is known as a tough course for the runners, and Papa wasn’t shy to add to that sentiment.
“Overall, this is a very challenging course; just sitting here watching it may look easy, but those guys are getting after it. With all the hills and turns, the packs get broken up.”
Papa added that it was important to get experience at what will be the Atlantic Region host course, “One of the main goals today was to get everyone accustomed to running that big hill at the beginning and being able to recover and settle in and compete after that. Everyone is a little bit better for running here today.”
For the first time this year, junior Jeremy Parsons did not win a race he participated in, claiming second place only behind Malone sophomore George McCartney. Parsons ran the challenging 8,000 meter course in 26:25.
Parsons clarified that there was no home field advantage at Slippery Rock’s course.
“The hill is pretty challenging at the beginning, so you just gotta stick in there until the end after that,” Parsons said. “Especially at this course, it’s important to pace yourself at the beginning, which worked for me last year.”
Once again Rock freshmen stepped up, as John Marenkovic and Jared Nelson were the second and third place Rock finishers, with Marenkovic claiming sixth overall with a 26:49 time and Nelson finished 22nd in 28:13.
Papa called Marenkovic’s performance a “stellar race for a freshman”.
Sophomore Josh Radar was the fourth-best Rock runner on the day, claiming 29th with a time of 28:50. Yet another freshman rounded out the Rock scorers as Daniel Janyska was 31st, finishing in 28:59.
Two additional freshman had solid showings in the 73-runner field, as Kegan Beard and David Wiles placed 33rd and 37th, respectively.
Sophomore Andrew Maxwell did not race due to “runner’s knee.” Senior Stephen Shepherd was also out of commission, along with junior Jeff Henderson.
Saturday ended the regular season for The Rock, with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) championships looming in two weeks at Kutztown on Oct. 22nd.
Papa said that this was a fitting end to the regular season
“This was a great indicator for what PSAC championships will be like. A lot of the good teams were here, and everybody knows its definitely going to be a dogfight.”