For the first time in over a decade, Slippery Rock Cross country will not have a home meet this season. Head Coach John Papa has been around Slippery Rock Cross Country for 30 years, and gave insight as to why that is.
Cooper’s lake isn’t ours, we just use it. They have scheduled a variety of different events there. The first week we have to use it is October 14th, which would be the week before Conference Championships. We never race the week before Conference Championships. Its the first year since we’ve used Cooper’s lake that we won’t have an event there. However, next year we will be down there”
For Slippery Rock, home field advantage is no worry because of the runners that are coming back for the Green and White this year, headlined by senior Melissa Rains. Rains’s season was heavily hampered by injury, and she only participated in four meets. Papa talked about what he expects out of Rains now that she is healthy.
“She was running great last year, but hurt her ankle and then it was this, that, and another thing and she never really got going. Her track season wasn’t what she wanted it to be. This year, she is running right where she was two years ago, so lets hope that she’ll be able to be up there.
One good runner does not make a team, and Papa was quick to offer names of other key runners that will make the cogs turn this year.
“Courtney Group, our number one last year, right now she is running some after being hurt this summer. I don’t know who will be number one between her and Rains, but it will be a great one-two punch.”
Papa was eager to rattle off more names of runners who could work their way into the top five this year.
“Maddy Dunham placed in the conference championships in steeplechase last year in track, so she made a breakthrough. Caitlyn Janeda placed in the 800 in track, so she will potentially do something this year. Those two ladies coupled with Melissa and Courtney will more than likely be up in our top group. Makaila Banka was in our top five last year. Hannah Kennawell sat out last year and also Madison Przicina. Those ladies are going to compete for our top spots, and how they compete for those spots is what is going to make the team.”
Papa is renowned for his recruiting, so a team with only two freshman is uncommon, but Papa said the roster is plentiful enough now that incoming Freshman were of little consequence.
“We had a couple ladies who were going to be a part of the team. At the last minute, for one reason or another, they decided not to. The fact is that our roster is pretty dang big, it’s not a worry.”
After placing in the top ten in both the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) and Atlantic Regionals last year and losing three seniors, Papa talked about what has to happen for his team to replicate that level of success.
“Sometimes if the 3-7 runners just let the top two go, it can be bad. When you finish a race, we want out top five to be as close together as possible. We need our 3,4,5,6, and 7 runners to fight to get as close to our one and two as possible. Having that competitive spirit and staying healthy is key.”
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams will begin their season on Saturday, September 2 at the Marty Uher Invitational at California (Pa.) University.