Slippery Rock’s leading cross country runner, junior Jeremy Parsons, qualified for nationals this past weekend with a seventh-place finish at the Atlantic Region Championships, held at Cooper’s Lake Campground in Slippery Rock.
“It’s going to be warm at least,” commented a relieved Parsons after the race concluded.
Parsons, along with two other qualifiers from Indiana University (Pa.) and Kutztown University, as well as the teams of Shippensburg (41 points) , Lock Haven (63), Edinboro (72), and Concord (156) will be heading to Saint Leo, Florida for the National Championships in two weeks.
“I felt really good and had a solid week” Parsons said.
Parsons was running at 100 percent for the first time in a few weeks. Parsons finished seventh with a time of 33:08, slightly behind his sixth-place finish at last year’s regional championships.
“Jeremy ran courageous, he was hurting the last couple thousand meters but he hung tough. He was in a little bit of trouble but he worked through it.” head Coach John Papa said on his star runner’s final team performance of the year.
Slippery Rock took home 13th in the overall team standings.
With a team that almost exclusively contains freshman, Papa commented on how much this race means for the future, “For six of our guys, it’s the first time they have ever had to run that distance, its a new adventure. You have to be a touch cautious. If you let it get to you, it could be a problem. I think everyone adapted well. Some of our guys had their best race of the year.”
While this was overall a good race for the Rock, Papa emphasized the importance of team building and getting good experience.
“This was a great learning experience for everybody. A lot of the success of what our runners have is what they do in the off-season when they are on their own,” Papa said. “I think now that everyone knows what they are getting into, next summer’s training will be significantly better than this year’s past”
One of the common themes of the day was how tough the extra 2,000 meters was on all the runners. Regular season races for the men’s teams are 8,000 meters, while the regional race was 10,000.
“With about a mile to go, I couldn’t really feel my legs” Parsons said.
Freshman standout John Marenkovic was running in his first ever regionals. He was the second finisher for The Rock, coming in 55th place with a 35:34 time.
“At about the 8,000 meter mark, everything tightened up all at once.” Marenkovic said.
Papa echoed Marenkovic’s sentiment.
“It was tough on him, the extra 2,000. It’s a whole new deal. I thought he ran tough.”
Fellow freshmen Keegan Beard (73rd, 36:10), Daniel Janyska (79th, 36:25) and David Wells (95th, 37:18) were also competing for the first time.
Both Marenkovic and Papa were positive about the experience after it concluded
“I never gave up, I just kept giving my all” Marenkovic said, visibly exhausted.
Papa knows that the hardship of this race will benefit him in the long run.
“Now that he knows what it’s like, he is definitely going to be able to hang tough and run it better in the years to come.”
The overall message of the day was extreme positivity.
“Everyone is Happy” Marenkovic recalled after speaking with his teammates. “Everyone is embracing at the end of the race and giving hugs, it’s all positive.”
“I am very proud of everyone’s efforts today” Papa said. “The future is bright.”
Slippery Rock concluded its team season at the regional championship, but Parsons will be looking to earn his second All-American honor run at the National Championships on Nov. 19th in Saint Leo, Florida.