By Gabe Sturges
Lazily marching along through the sodden grass, shoelaces entangled among the few remaining dandelions, the slate colored sky and deceivingly crisp temperatures foreshadowed nothing of the day’s successes to come.
In an unusually scheduled Friday race, the dedicated members of Union’s men’s and women’s cross country teams departed from school during the mid-day dreariness to test their mettle at the Oneonta Airfield Invite hosted by SUNY Oneonta.
With both teams having posted very promising fifth place finishes at the previous weekend’s Cobleskill Invitational, the Dutchmen and Dutchwomen looked to carry on their athletic successes. Serving as the NCAA Regionals championship course at the conclusion of the fall season, Friday’s race provided an invaluable opportunity to preview the course and compete against top-flight competition, the majority of which was highly ranked in the region and in some cases, the nation.
With some left bitter from their performance the previous week, Oneonta served as a coming out of sorts for the men’s team, using the pan-flat grass course to their utmost advantage. Stepping to the line in only his second race appearance in over two years, captain Dearon Panossian ‘11 unleashed a devastating kick with less than one kilometer to go, crossing the line in 27:52. Fellow captains Ben Lawrence ‘11 and Pat Petty ‘11 showed brilliant glimpses of form to come, finishing with times of 28:52 and 30:38, respectively.
Improving drastically from the previous week, rookies Pete Donnelly, Alex Paolicelli and Kenny Sayles were unfazed by such top-notch competition, recording PRs of 28:36, 31:42 and 32:14, respectively. Sophomore Brian Solinsky displayed his months of hard summer training, tallying a 50-second personal best with a time of 28:04. Ethan Loew, also of the Class of 2013, ran a very strategic race, coming in with a very promising performance of 29:23.
On the women’s side, running their first 6k of the year, all top five runners conquered the course in less than 27 minutes—a very impressive start for the season. It proved to be a red-letter day for the team’s freshmen corps.
Cara Zimmerman, last week’s Liberty League Co-Performer of the Week, paced the women’s team, recording an impressive debut time of 24:52. Fellow rookies Elizabeth Nailing and Jackie Massare were undeterred by the incredible level of competition and forced their way through the pack to record times of 25:10 and 25:53, respectively. First year Keilah Creedon, following a strong performance the previous week, continued her success to record a time of 26:24. Senior Michelle Richter was in hot pursuit, tallying a personal best in the process with a time of 26:35.
Despite suffering from a bruised rib during the melee at the start, Callie Aldrich ‘14 fought throughout, recording 28:45. Kaileigh Moore ‘12 and Angela McLelland ‘11, returning to form, ran well, finishing in 29:11 and 32:53, respectively.
Senior Suzanne Estok had an excellent race, debuting two minutes faster than her first 6k of last season, running 29:55.
Both teams will take a well-deserved two-week respite, returning Oct. 9th at the Mt. St. Mary’s Invitational.