By C. Garrett Keidel, Staff Writer
On Saturday, Sept. 9, the men’s and women’s cross country teams lined up against the rival Fordham Rams to kick off this season of competition. The Fordham Fiasco was held on the home course for the Jaspers in Van Cortlandt Park.
Senior John Dove took the individual title for the men’s race with a time of 26:15.55 on the 8k course; and junior Lisa Fajardo took the title in the women’s race with a final time of 18:24.09 on the 5k course.
“So this is my first cross country win ever. If you told me 4 years ago that I was going to win a cross country race I wouldn’t have believed you. Needless to say I was pretty surprised. It felt pretty fitting that I ran exactly four minutes faster in this race than I did four years ago,” Dove said.
Fajardo had similar things to say:
“I was really excited to win the race because I have never won a collegiate cross country race. This was also the first time that I improved on this course since high school, three years ago, and I improved by 16 seconds so that meant a lot to me.”
This year, the Jaspers have been focusing a lot of attention and training into the strategy of pack running.
“We have been talking a lot about this year about a different strategy. Just in terms that I feel both groups are ready for a bit more pack running and a little bit more purposeful pack running, instead of just going out there and trying to run a [personal record],” Head Coach Kerri Gallagher said.
“We’re working on strategy every time we race. I kind of knew we could walk away with some [personal records] for some folks on Saturday but really what I wanted to see was how we handle that strategy,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher was pleased with the Jaspers’ performance at the event.
“I was very impressed with what I saw from all of them. They really embraced that strategy [and it] gave us a really good starting point to move forward from,” Gallagher said.
Pack running played a large role in both teams winning the race. The men’s team had only a 16 second gap between their first and fourth runners.
Fajardo said that pack running helped a lot.
“I teamed up with my teammate, Caroline Ferri, and we went out fairly conservatively for the first mile, just keeping the leaders in sight. We stuck together up until the halfway point, which came right after the final hill,” Fajardo said.
Fajardo continued, “Once we separated, I started to pick a few people off that were in front of me, and with about 1,000 meters to go, I passed the leader and made sure to keep gradually picking up the pace and stretch out my lead until the finish line.”
The remaining part of the season is looking good for the Jaspers, and Coach Gallagher is thinking positively.
“We were picked third and fifth, men’s and women’s respectably in the MAAC conference. I think we will exceed those expectations. I am very confident that we should be running for second and third,” Gallagher predicted.
The Jaspers run on their home course in Van Cortlandt Park two more times throughout the remainder of the season. Just like every other sport, student engagement is key and plays a vital role in the support and energy in a team.
“There’s a great energy at this school. The student body is unique in the way they embrace the Jasper spirit, and I see that across the board,” Gallagher said.
You can catch the men’s and women’s cross country teams in action in Van Cortlandt Park on Oct. 13 for the Metropolitan Championships.