Early races show improvement for men’s and women’s cross country

In their second races of the season, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams turned in first-place finishes Saturday at the 2017 All Sugar Bowl Cross Country Festival. Their performances come as an improvement after both teams finished third in their first races of the season at the Temple University Cross Country Invitational at Belmont Plateau the previous weekend.

“Week one at Temple we felt like a rust buster race,” Michael Nussa, associate head cross country coach, said. “The team executed the race OK up at Temple. Made a few errors that I felt like got corrected this weekend.”

The boost in results comes in part from the teams’ focuses on running as a pack, rather than individually.

“This week, we really wanted to work on our team pack-running a little bit better,” Nussa said of the women’s team. “As we’ve gotten better as a team, they’ve started to get a little bit closer to running with each other. We wanted them to go out and run as a team through about halfway through the race, and then open up and everybody kind of go on their own and see what they could do, which they managed really well for about the first half.”

Head coach Eric Peterson strategized the pacing plan for the teams, aimed at keeping the team members in sync.

“Our goal for the meet was to assign somebody on the team to set the early pace for the entire team and then maintain that for the first two miles of the race,” Peterson said of the men’s team. “That person was Carlos [Zervigon]. He did a good job. He put us in a good, competitive position. Moses [Aloiloi] and Joshua [Cheruyot] pretty obviously were the ones that responded and reacted best to that strategy, and not only did we improve as a team but we won the meet, and we had the individual winner in Moses.”

For the men’s team, senior Moses Aloiloi won the race with a time of 16:05.1, earning his first overall victory of the season. Junior Joshua Cheruyot finished second overall at 16:12.7, while sophomore Carlos Zervigon finished fourth overall with a time of 16:24.9.

For the women’s team, redshirt sophomore Mckenzie Melius (19:03.9), sophomore Sarah Cella (19:36.5), freshman Rachel Maue (19:40.5) and sophomore Mary Catherine Stovall (19:58.7) took four out of the top five spots, finishing second, third, fourth and fifth.

Even with the positive result, the teams are gearing up for continued progress and expect to perform even better as the season progresses.

“Right now, everyone’s effort in practice is really positive,” Melius said. “Everyone’s coming out, working their hardest every morning. I would expect us to improve throughout the season constantly.”

Aloiloi, one of the team’s most experienced runners, also sees potential for the team to develop.

“There are a lot of expectations for our team this year,” Aloiloi said. “Last year, we came second in the conference, and we’re looking forward to either retain the same title or go for the first position. And send a few athletes to nationals.”

The teams will next compete on Saturday, Sept. 16, in the LSU Invitational at High Land Road Park in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The women’s team starts at 7:30 a.m., while the men’s starts at 8:10 a.m.

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