Men’s and women’s cross country hit the ground running and captured top spots at the Mount St. Mary’s Duals last weekend.
Coming off a hot start, head coach Terry Weir said the early part of the season will be used to continue developing runners and race plans with seven weeks of training until the Atlantic 10 Championships.
“In these next couple weeks what I’m looking for is just what that personality of the team is going to be,” Weir said. “Through the workouts and some more of these races, we’ll start fine-tuning what our strengths are, what are some areas that we may need to work on.”
At Mount St. Mary’s, the men’s side came in first in a field of five with 44 total points and four Colonials rounding out the race’s top-10. The team was paced by senior Andrew Weber – who became the first Colonial to cross the finish line first since 2014.
“Whenever I go on a course I’m not usually winning races, Mount St. Mary’s was an anomaly,” Weber said. “But when we are racing out there I stay composed because I’m doing it for the guys next to me.”
The women’s side was led by junior Suzanne Dannheim and senior Madison Yerke, who earned second and third place finishes, respectively, to help GW to a second-place finish in a field of six with 33 points.
Weir said the team competed last weekend without a race plan, approaching the meet instead as a way for the team to get back into their race routines and get “the competitive juices going again.”
He said in this weekend’s race, the squad had “one of the best starts” he’s seen from them.
“A lot of them did some really good work over the summer,” Weir said. “And running’s one of those things you can’t really B.S. You’re either in shape or you’re not in shape.”
Both squads are coming off of strong spring seasons. The men’s team captured three gold medals at the A-10 Outdoor Track and Field Championships in May and sent two runners to the NCAA East Preliminary Competition for the first time in program history. Last season, the Colonials placed a program-high third at the cross country conference finale.
On the women’s side, Dannheim and senior Halley Brown both earned top-10 finishes at the outdoor track and field championships. To cap their cross country season last fall, Brown, Dannheim, senior Madison Yerek and senior Lesley Fatica all had their best placements at the conference meet.
This season the men’s roster is “thinner” due to graduation, but Weir said the team still has potential to place better than its projected 5th place finish at the A-10 Championships. The men’s team is without strong runners like 2018-graduate Chris Shaffer – who set numerous program records as a runner – and graduate student Carter Day, who is eligible to run track and field but not cross country.
“Losing those guys was kinda rough, but at the same time those guys were what gave us confidence realizing we can do some amazing things,” Weber said.
The women’s team has the opposite problem, with 18 runners returning from last season’s 22-person roster. At the Mount St. Mary’s Duals, GW had 15 runners from the women’s team competing.
With each team restricted to fielding 10 runners at the A-10 Championship, Weir said the team has a lot of senior leadership and has never been in the position before to have to compete for spots on the starting line before, but it is a “good position to be in.”
“We’re pretty deep on the girls’ side in terms of numbers and the quality that we have,” Weir said. “I’m really excited for them and we’re in a good spot.”
Weir said he will use the teams’ next meet – the Adidas XC Challenge – to see how the team will compete on a fast course similar to the one they will face at the A-10 Championship in October.
“The thing that motivates us beyond summer is pushing toward first and realizing the A-10 is something that’s easily obtainable to win,” Weber said.
The Colonials return to action Sept. 14 when they race in the Adidas XC Challenge in North Carolina.