XC running with high expectations going into competition

Junior Michael Scarlett leads the pack during the Ron Stonitsch Invitational last weekend. Scarlett, one of the top runners, was named to the Second Team All-Liberty League last year. Photo courtesy of Carlisle Stockton
Junior Michael Scarlett leads the pack during the Ron Stonitsch Invitational last weekend. Scarlett, one of the top runners, was named to the Second Team All-Liberty League last year. Photo courtesy of Carlisle Stockton
Junior Michael Scarlett leads the pack during the Ron Stonitsch Invitational last weekend. Scarlett, one of the top runners, was named to the Second Team All-Liberty League last year. Photo courtesy of Carlisle Stockton

Running upwards of 50 miles a week in the offseason, the Vassar College men’s and women’s cross-country teams are looking to materialize their high expectations this fall.

The men’s preseason has been one of the most successful in Vassar history following a summer of incredibly difficult training. Many of the runners return to Vassar ready to race af­ter running upwards of 60 and 70 miles a week in preparation for competition.

While the team is small with only 16 mem­bers, it returns all but one of last season’s top seven runners and the current school record holders in the 5K and 10K, juniors Michael Scarlett and Phillip Brown, respectively.

Freshmen make up a quarter of the team, and all look to make an immediate impact in the standings. Scarlett, top returning runner, says, “We’re confident in the group we have, es­pecially since we have four talented freshmen who have already been contributing.”

Individually, Scarlett is looking to improve upon his record-breaking sophomore season by achieving new personal records and con­tinuing to finish first among Vassar runners in every race he runs. Scarlett is one of the best runners in the Liberty League and he is looking forward to facing off against the top teams in the country in the upcoming weeks.

Senior captain Gabe Fishman gave voice to the team’s high aspirations, stating, “We hope to finish top 10 in the region and we believe that come November we should be able to mix it up with some of the best teams in the region.”

The Brewers are confident that this will be a season for the record books. “We have the piec­es in place to be the best team Vassar has ever had and we’re excited to make a splash in the Atlantic region,” says Scarlett.

12th-year Head Coach James McCowan says, “The long-term goal is to advance our first team to the NCAA championships and com­pete well there. How close we get to that goal is up to the men to determine.”

The season began on Saturday, Sept. 10 at the annual Ron Stonitsch Invitational located on the Vassar Farm. The men pushed through the humid conditions and damp course for a strong fourth-place finish to set the tone for the remainder of the season. Scarlett once again placed first for the Brewers and 13th overall. Freshman Adin Becker had a breakout first col­legiate race in which he placed third for Vassar and 25th overall.

With their first race under their belts, all members of the team look to continue on an upward trend for the rest of the season. They will race again on Saturday, Sept. 17 at the Row­an Invitational in Glassboro, NJ.

The women’s team boasts the largest ros­ter in cross-country history with 23 members. They are excited to begin the season and show­case the depth that have as a result of having such a big team.

This strength within the team is already es­tablishing healthy competition that will benefit the Brewers as they start to compete in import­ant races. In practice, different runners con­stantly push themselves to lead the pack and as a result, it is expected that Vassar’s top five finishers can change on any given race day.

Based on the preseason, the women’s team shows great potential. All members came back from the summer looking strong and feeling optimistic about the road ahead. Vassar looks to improve their ranking from last year and re-enter the United States Track and Cross Country Coaches’ Association Top 25 Poll, in which they were included for both the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

“Process is the goal,” says Coach McCow­an. “It’s all well and good to set lofty outcome goals, but the key is to make sure each and ev­ery day we are doing the right work, practicing the right mental outlook and developing the skills necessary to perform at our best.”

Vassar returns 11 runners from last year’s team who finished in the top five for Vassar at least once every race last season. This includes sophomore Christiana Prater-Lee who finished in Vassar’s top three in every race she ran in last year.

The team’s four seniors are extremely enthu­siastic about their last cross-country season. “Each [senior] brings her own unique skills to the team and all care deeply for the success of every runner,” remarks McCowan.

Two seniors, Lucy Balcezak and captain Jem­ma Howlett return to the team after missing their junior seasons to study abroad. Both look to contribute in big ways this season to make up for lost time.

The six freshmen bring even more depth to team, boasting various strengths that Vassar plans to utilize in both training and races.

Freshman Caroline Hartman states that the transition from high school to collegiate cross-country was very smooth. “The team was all in touch over the summer and were doing similar training so everything felt normal when I got to campus,” Hartman said.

With regards to the team, Hartman also noted, “The team is really great because when we’re doing hard workouts they make practice a fun place to go. I’m really excited to see how the team develops.”

Like the men, the women kicked off the 2016 season at the Ron Stonitsch Invitational, where they placed seventh. Balcezak led the Brewers and finished 26th overall. Senior Laura McDon­ald placed second for Vassar, and Prater-Lee continued last season’s trend of placing in the top three for Vassar while finishing third on the team and 31st overall. Three freshmen round­ed out the top six runners for Vassar. Hartman, Erin Clark and Meghan Cook took fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

With so much success at this invitational, the women will only continue improving as they continue the rest of their season. Vassar races again on Saturday, Sept. 17, Glassboro, NJ for the Rowan Invitational.

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