In a humid heat at the United States Naval Academy Golf Course Saturday, the men’s cross country team took another step toward success for the season.
GW finished the day in second place out of five teams in the Navy Invitational, which included victories over Loyola (Md.), UMBC and McDaniel. The Colonials finished in fourth place at the same event last year.
Although Navy won the invitational with ease, the Colonials viewed the meet as an opportunity to be compared to top teams.
“We knew it was going to be hot, and we knew the Navy guys were going to be ready to run, so we just let them handle the pace,” junior Ryan DePinto said. “They will be one of the top five teams on the whole East Coast, so they are a good benchmark to see how we stack up.”
DePinto ran in front of his teammates for the majority of the race. He finished ninth overall and first for the Colonials with a personal best time of 25:45.27 in the eight kilometer race.
Senior Seamus Roddy (26:19.10) and junior Charles Arnold (26:34.02) came in second and third, respectively, for GW – reducing their times from last year by significant margins.
The improvements boost head coach Terry Weir’s confidence that the squad he labeled as “developmental” last year will be able to take the next step forward and compete for the Atlantic 10 championship.
“Every year we have the goal of reaching the A-10 Championship, but we also have to make sure that we are setting realistic goals,” Weir said. “This year, I expect us to make the jump. Getting to that top third, the top five or six, is a great goal for us this year, and I think it is very doable.”
Weir said the team continues to mature and pay attention to details, which has led them to improve.
“These guys have done a lot of running, so you can see their fitness,” Weir said. “Now it is about going through and talking tactics and things they can do better. Before they were just running. Now it is about understanding things like positioning better.”
GW completed its inaugural track and field season in the spring. Some of the cross country runners transitioned to indoor track last winter and ran outdoor track in the spring, so they were running and competing all year long. The cross country team will be able to recruit more easily with the added track program, and runners can stay in competition shape, Weir said.
“It all came down to if we wanted to be better in distance and cross country, we had to offer a [track team],” Weir said. “We need to offer them the opportunity to run year round with the best in the NCAA. It has helped us out with recruiting the serious athletes.”
But the extra season challenged some young distance runners to maintain motivation and ability throughout the year, Weir said. The Colonials are counting on the older members of the team, especially captains senior Jordan Pantalone and junior Chris Shaffer, to lead the way and support their teammates.
“What is different with distance runners is we have three A-10 championships to get ready for, so they are really in season from the end of August until May,” Weir said. “Our captains are really extremely important to bring the team over the long haul and keep the guys together, keep them motivated.”
The women’s cross country team, also coached by Weir, made a substantial leap during last year’s season. The team improved from a 10th-place finish to a fifth-place finish in the A-10 Championship and added on two first-place finishes during the regular season.
With three of the squad’s top four runners slated to return for the 2017 season, men’s cross country is in the position to steadily improve, reach its goals and make an impact in the A-10 over the next two years, Weir said.
“I am excited for these guys,” Weir said. “We only have a few seniors this year, we are still a young team and this is by far our deepest and maybe even our best team so far.”
The Colonials will attempt to continue their steady improvement Oct. 1 as the team splits up and runs both the Paul Short Invitational in Bethlehem, Penn. and the George Mason Invitational in Fairfax, Va.