Over the past several weekends, Gannon University’s men’s and women’s cross country teams worked hard to wrap up their 2013 season successfully.
Kutztown University hosted the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Championships on Oct. 26, and two weeks later, Lock Haven University hosted the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regionals Saturday.
Although the hilly course was very difficult and times were not extremely fast, both the men and women Knights did well.
On the men’s side, the team finished 14th led by senior Adam Walker’s 51st-place finish among 125 runners, with a total of 382 points for the top seven.
Lock Haven’s team placed first with 37 points, led by Alex Monroe, who was first overall with a time of 24 minutes, 43.6 seconds. Walker finished the 8k in a time of 27:24.1 seconds, and was followed by junior Brian Svboda (75th), junior Eric Boring (79th), senior Alec Raynor (86th), senior Drew Tordella (91st), senior Joshua Gibbons (93rd) and sophomore Evan Cook (95th), to complete the scoring team for the Knights.
On the women’s side, the team placed 13th with 348 points at the PSAC championships, led by Veronica Bujdos’ 15th-place finish out of 160 runners, allowing her to earn all-conference honors for placing among the top 20.
At the Atlantic Regionals Bujdos, a sophomore, was Gannon’s top runner with a time of 22:55.4 for 15th place, followed by senior Emily Reinhart (62nd), sophomore Nicole Bubie (74th), junior Allison McDermott (95th), senior Kailyn Bentley (102nd), freshman Hannah Merrifield (105th) and freshman Kim Demjanenko (111th) to finish up the scoring group for the Knights.
Mansfield won its first PSAC title ever in women’s cross country with a team total of 65 points; however, the top runner for the race was Bloomsburg’s Victoria Davis with a time of 21:34 for the 6k course.
In the week between the two final races, the men and women endured icy rain Saturday morning for a final speed workout in the mud at Asbury Woods.
Although it was difficult to hit the ideal times for the Knights repeats, the tough conditions prepared them for even the worst conditions possible at Lock Haven.
Nonetheless, on Saturday, the weather was beautiful and warm for the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regionals, and after a week of tapering, reducing mileage and intensity, all of the runners were ready to race this final meet of the 2013 season.
The Knights’ performance illustrated all of their hard work for the past three months since the start of their difficult week of pre-season in mid-August.
For these championships, the men race a 10k instead of the 8k that they had run for all of their races in the season.
However, the Knights had built up plenty of endurance to handle this extra distance, as demonstrated by Walker’s improvement of 33 places since last year.
Walker placed 57th out of 137 runners to lead the men to a team total 446 and a 17th team place.
The team from Lock Haven was first with a team total of 44 points, led by PSAC-champion Monroe’s first place finish in a time of 29:31:3.
Although this race was longer, this flat course allowed many runners to run their best all season. Walker’s time was 32:55, which means that he raced slightly over 6 miles at an impressive pace of about 5:18 per mile.
Coach John Carrig said he was happy with the performance from the men, and with most of these men from the top group graduating this year. He said he hopes that the upperclassmen can continue to improve and lead a group of new runners for another successful season again next year.
On the women’s side, the Knights placed 14th among the 22 teams with 360 points, which is their best regional performance since they placed 12th in 2008. The top team was Edinboro with 81 points for the team total, although PSAC-champion Davis won the individual race from Bloomsburg. Davis crossed the finish line of the 6k race in a time of 20:45.
The women’s team was led by Bujdos with a 14th-place finish among 162 runners, finishing the 6k course in a personal-best time of 21:21.6 for the 6k, which is about 5:44 minutes per mile for slightly more than 3.5 miles.
With this finish, Bujdos became the second runner from Gannon to earn all-region honors in the past two years as Nicole Bubie, a freshman at the time, finished in 19th last season to earn this honor given to the top 20 runners.
After Bujdos, the scoring team for the Knights included Reinhart in 64th, Bubie in 74th, Merrifield in 102nd, and Bentley in 106th.
Although they did not score team points, Allison McDermott (119th) and sophomore Natalie Richard (125th) both competed in the race. Even though Bubie and Bentley began the season with minor injuries, both worked hard all season to simultaneously work through these injuries and build up speed and endurance to compete for the team.
This strong determination and clear awareness of mental and physical health is present in all of the runners for the Gannon Knights, and these characteristics allow them to improve throughout three months of the long season and perform their best at this final and difficult competition.
One of the top runners, senior Reinhart, will be graduating, but Carrig said he is looking forward to the next several seasons with a large majority of the top runners returning.
Walker was followed by Gannon’s Eric Boring in 90th, Brian Svoboda in 92nd, Alec Raynor in 107th and Joshua Gibbons in 108th to finish the scoring team of the top 5 runners. Gannon’s Drew Tordella placed 112th and Evan Cook placed 129th, but did not score points for the team.