Men’s and women’s cross country gained a snapshot of the upcoming Atlantic 10 Championship at the Mason Invitational Friday.
The Colonials faced five conference competitors on the same course as the A-10 Championship, during which the women claimed second while the men nabbed fourth. Runners called the race a mock A-10 Championship, saying the competition was a look at what’s to come at the championship on Nov. 2.
“During training, it feels like we’re on a high,” senior Suzanne Dannheim said. “It feels like we’re having a great year, but you don’t really know that until you get to the course and you race the teams and you beat some of them that we weren’t expecting to beat. That’s a lot of positive momentum.”
The men’s and women’s squads faced five A-10 competitors – VCU, Duquesne, Richmond, Saint Joseph’s and George Mason. The women’s team placed second of seven teams with 52 points, just three points from No. 1 Richmond. The squad held a comfortable lead in second, topping third-place Duquesne by 17 points.
Dannheim earned her first top spot on the podium after finishing first on the women’s side. Two other runners finished in the top 10, and 10 runners of the 13-member squad competed. The women’s team has the smallest roster since 2013.
Dannheim said she expected to finish within the top of the field but did not anticipate leading the pack across the finish line. She paced the race with a time of 18:18.0.
“With the way the race went out, the first mile was really controlled, and that helped me the next two miles to break out a little bit and take the lead,” Dannheim said. “There came a point, two and a half miles, where I was like, ‘I’m holding back too much to not win.’”
She said she feels confident that she can repeat the No. 1 performance at the conference championship. The women’s squad has three weeks off before heading back into competition.
“I can look at that and say, ‘This means when I come back here, I can do it again,’” she said. “I can get the podium, I can have a shot at winning.”
The men’s team finished fourth in a seven-team field, falling short to three A-10 teams – Saint Joseph’s, Richmond and George Mason. The Colonials fell 24 points behind third-place George Mason.
Senior Jack Conlon led the way on the men’s side, finishing ninth with a time of 26:10.1. Conlon said the race was a starting point for him this season, but he still wants to tweak aspects of his performance, like finishing the race strong.
“I was really happy with my race, great launching board for what I want to do this season,” Conlon said.
Conlon and senior Jakob Coombes were the only runners to have experience in the 8-kilometer heading into the competition. Six Colonials made their event debut, including a crop of five freshmen. Freshmen Juan Moscoso, Ryan Fowkes, Alex Longeway, James Glockenmeier and Pat Castellano and sophomore Isaiah Robyne all finished in the top 50 in their first 8-kilometer race.
On a 22-man roster, nine members of the team are in their first collegiate cross country season. Junior Daniel Robinson said the younger team has been consistently strong since the season began.
“They are coming out firing, which is really good to see from such a young group, and everyone’s being pushed from the bottom up, which is nice because we have the guys filling in roles that have previously been held by older guys,” Robinson said.
The team lost eight runners from the 2018-19 team, including 2019 graduates Andrew Weber and Connor James – who finished No. 16 and No. 70, respectively, at the A-10 Championship.
Like the women’s squad, the men’s team has three weeks before its next competition. Robinson said the men’s squad will focus on recovery and analyze its training to maximize its upcoming competitions.
“When we get time off, that’s really time to really reflect on what the training has been doing and what you can do to modify your training the best to suit your needs or help you better perform,” he said.
The Colonials are back in action Oct. 5 at the Paul Short Run.
Belle Long contributed reporting.