By Grace Cardinal, Asst. News Editor
Only three meets into the year, the Jasper XC team has already displayed freshmen standouts at both Fordham Fiasco and the Jasper XC Invitational. With a women’s win at Fordham Fiasco and numerous individual placements from both meets, the team and their recruits are off to a strong start for their season.
Bailee Christofis, a freshman from Arizona, showed impressive times in both meets, placing sixth in her 5k race at Fordham Fiasco, the team’s second meet of the season.
“Honestly, [it was] kind of surprising because I haven’t had the most consistent training coming in so far,” Christofis said. “It’s just kind of been building blocks from here and it’s been nice to know that in trusting Coach’s training, I’ve been setting myself up for success as well.”
Adam Guzman, a freshman from Riverdale, NY, was a standout at both the Fordham Fiasco and the Jasper XC Invitational. At Fiasco, Guzman placed tenth in his 8k race, and showed improvement only a week later at the Jasper Invitational, shaving almost two minutes off of his time.
“It was a nice feeling, knowing I came in tenth, but I like to look at Fordham Fiasco as a learning experience,” Guzman wrote in an email to The Quadrangle. “Although I placed tenth, I’m not happy with how I did. I know I’m a freshman and it was only my second race, but I always expect myself to do better.”
Both freshmen runners have found inspiration, not intimidation, in working with the many successful upperclassmen on the team.
“I would definitely say [it’s] inspiring, especially because I’ve been able to practice so close with them,” Christofis said. “I’ve been able to see what techniques they use and their little tips and tricks, I guess you could say, that just helped them excel to the level that they’re at now.”
Guzman explained in his email that successful runners have surrounded him since he first started his cross-country journey.
It’s amazing to run alongside older teammates who have had so much success,” Guzman wrote. “I grew up here in the Bronx and have trained in Van Cortlandt all four years of high school, so I would always see them [ MC Cross Country] training, so the motivation was always there just by watching and sharing the same track with them as they did their workout and I’d be doing mine..”
Kerri Inman, director of XC at Manhattan College, explained that the upperclassmen on the team understand their responsibility to acclimate the recruits, starting not from commitment, but from their very first campus visit.
“I think [the upperclassmen] have been great,” said Inman. “We try to make sure that our upperclassmen understand they’re just as much part of the recruiting process because these are their future teammates. A lot of these men and women started building relationships with these recruits right in their visit, and as soon as they commit, it’s a matter of they’re a teammate, they’re not just a freshman.”
Christofis noted a unique set of challenges she’s faced through running on terrain she’s never experienced before.
“The courses here are insanely different from the courses in Arizona so I just have to get used to the rolling hills and running in the trails,” said Christofis. “The first time we went into the trails, I genuinely thought I was in the wrong place. It’s been [about] getting a grip of where I am racing instead of racing on a golf course.”
Even without the challenge of conquering new terrain, Guzman has also faced his own set of difficulties so far this season.
“At the Jasper invite, someone tripped at around 70 meters into the race and I fell over him, causing me to drop from the top 30 all the way to the 100s,” Guzman wrote. “This forced me to catch up from the back and attempt to put myself back into the race.”
While the team has demonstrated successful finishes thus far, both the athletes and coaches agree that there is still room for improvement.
“I’d say my preparation for each meet has been pretty good with what I’ve been eating,” Christofis said. “Sometimes you eat something wrong, it’ll kind of upset your stomach. I will say the one thing that I need to start doing better is to keep my eye on the next teammate in front of me and just hang on for dear life.”
Inman agreed that while the team has made noticeable improvements, they have a long way to go before they achieve their goals.
“The conference is good,” Inman said. “We’re getting better, we’ve gotten better, it’s nice seeing that but at the same time, so has the conference. At the Jasper Invitational, we got a pretty rude awakening of where we sit in the conference. I don’t think our goals have changed but understanding what it’s going to take to realize those goals became much more real. At the very least, we want to be top five in the conference, but the top three is really what we’re shooting for.”
Looking to their futures, both freshmen are excited for the new experiences that lie ahead.
Christofis is excited to start on the indoor track team in the spring semester. In terms of her time on the XC team, she is eager to continue being a team player and learn from those above her.
“I am definitely most excited for indoor track,” Christofis said. “I’ve never done indoor track before. From what I’ve heard, the feeling is just electric when you’re racing and there’s music playing and all of the people are around you. Looking to [the future on XC] just growing however I can, filling whatever role I need to on the team, which right now is just kind of sitting back and learning from the upperclassmen.”
Guzman is ready to keep learning from those around him and is prepared to put the work in to push his expectations of himself to the limit.
“I’m excited to keep getting fitter and racing even better than I could expect from myself,” Guzman wrote. “I don’t see myself as being a leader anytime soon, but I’m always gonna be learning week by week and I’ll get to the point where I’m helping to lead us all.”
Inman is looking forward to the rest of the season and plans to continue to push her athletes to be the best they can be.
“We’re always in process,” Inman said. “Anytime we can find improvement, that’s really always a goal of mine on any given day, whether it be today, which is just a run day, or tomorrow, which will be a workout day, or a couple of weeks from now when we’re back on the course competing.”