The GW cross country teams are set to compete in the Atlantic 10 Championships Saturday, and while neither squad is expected to vie for first place, both the men and women believe they have a good chance to improve upon last year’s fifth and ninth place finishes, respectively.
“The outlook is good for both teams,” GW head coach Deb Cane said. “The men are competing on a pretty small roster, but all the men are running where we expected them to.”
The men’s team is led by top finishing seniors Dave Azari and Darrell Andruski, who guide a core of freshmen that include Daniel Morgan, Ryan Shaver and Ian Hajek. Running on a small roster leaves little room for error, but Azari said he still expects the team to at least match last year’s performance.
“Our team goal is to make the top five at conference,” Azari said. “But we’re shooting for the top three.”
The team’s progression over the last four years has moved toward a top-five finish. The men finished 10th at the Championships in 1999, the year before Azari arrived, then eighth in 2000, and fifth the past two years. Currently, however, the men are ranked eighth in the conference.
The women’s team, currently ranked 10th in the conference, will depend on its strong pack of frontrunners to improve from last season’s ninth-place finish. Their top five runners, freshman Bridget Skeuse, juniors Trina Bolton and Erin Patton, sophomore Meghan Dunn and senior Emily Jadwin, are training to finish within a minute of each other, using a strategy that has the runners always keeping each other in view.
“We pull each other along,” Bolton said, illustrating the logic of pack running. “It helps to stay strong when we race together (instead of individually).”
Last week, the Colonials increased both the speed and intensity of their workouts. The women concentrated on their front-running pack and the men worked on the strength of their top two seniors, who pull the group of strong freshmen into the top five.
The teams will rest in preparation for this week’s race, allowing them to prepare mentally and remain in good condition.
Among the top competitors the Colonial women will be chasing are Massachusetts, Dayton, Xavier and St. Jospeh’s, while the favorites on the men’s side are La Salle, Duquesne and Richmond.
“We’re ready to get out there and run,” Azari said.