Marywood’s cross country teams finish season on top


Ashlyn Jess, Sports Editor

After clinching the first-ever men’s and women’s Atlantic East Conference (AEC) Championship in 2018, Marywood University’s cross country teams had a title to defend.

Both teams conditioned during the preseason, partaking in interval training exercises that include 800 meter repeats, long runs that range anywhere from eight to 16 miles and more.

These practices helped prepare them for meets against their competitors. The most noteworthy of these meets include the race at Rowan University and the Paul Short Invitational held at Lehigh University.

The Rowan University meet consists of only division III teams and included the top 10 teams in the region, making this the most competitive meet for Marywood. The men’s team placed 20th out of 29 teams and the women placed 24th out of 27 teams.

The meet at Rowan University also produced a few personal record-breaking runs for the Pacers. Junior Ashleigh Clarke beat her previous personal 6K (roughly 3.7 miles) record of 23 minutes, 59 seconds by 39 seconds and Freshman Alexandra Antonecchia ran a 25:22 6K, beating her previous personal record by 26 seconds. Freshmen Kelsey Hein and Madi Howell also broke personal records and Senior Katie Bennett knocked 45 seconds off her previous best race time of 25:53.

The women were not the only ones to break personal records at the Rowan University meet. Freshman Maxwell Brewer came in at 26:36, knocking one minute off his previous best and Freshman Caleb Bakalyar finished with a time of 26:42, besting his personal record by 31 seconds. Brewer and Bakalyar’s runs also placed them as the 16th and 18th fastest runs in Marywood history.

Senior Nate Skrutski beat his personal best of 26:56 by four seconds and Junior David Haines ran his race in 25:56, placing them at 20th and 7th in Marywood’s record books respectively. Sophomore Michael Kelly achieved his previous best finishing at 27:57 while Junior Christian Scotti finished at 28:38, chopping 50 seconds off his previous personal record.

Many members of the men’s and women’s cross country teams also participate in the spring track and field season. Although the two sports are similar, the race length and pace are different.

According to Cross Country and Track & Field Coach Rob Ahrens, the hardest thing about transitioning from cross country to track is the distance and speed of the races.

“Definitely as you transition into the indoor track season the hardest part is probably just getting up to speed and getting used to running shorter distances and running faster,” said Ahrens.

After running cross country for Baptist Bible College of Pennsylvania, Clark Summit University and running track meets as an individual, Ahrens personally understands the pace along with the physical and mental changes his athletes have to adapt to when transitioning seasons.

Ahrens said he believes both sports are just as much physical as they are mental.

“People say that something is 90% mental, but obviously if you don’t train at all for something and all you train is your brain, it’s not going to work very well for you, so there is definitely a huge physical component to it,” said Ahrens. “A lot of what determines your success is your ability to see how much you can make yourself hurt.”

Although cross country is seen as an individual sport, Ahrens said team chemistry is still an important factor.

“Even though the teams are separate, a lot of the time we are practicing together. It’s nice to have the co-ed element and they are definitely supportive of each other,” said Ahrens. “When the men are racing, the women are always cheering them on and when the women are racing, the men are always cheering them on.”

Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams added to their success when they swept the AEC championship at Lakeland High School earlier this season.

Clarke said that she feels the dedication of every member on the team is what has brought them success.

“I love the dedication and commitment each person has. This sport is definitely not easy, but each person puts time and effort into becoming better. All of the hard work has created one big happy family throughout the years,” said Clarke. “We’ve shared laughter, memories, food and even tears. I’ve never been more proud of a team before.”

Scotti said he feels the group is more reminiscent of a family than a collegiate sports team.

“What I love about cross country is the family we have, the hard work we put in and the championships we win. Our strength comes from the constant support of one another and the fun we have while we run,” said Scotti. “Whether it’s on the road, on the course or in a classroom, our team is killing it. I’m lucky to be a part of such an amazing family.”

Scotti also said that he feels the program has a strong foundation moving forward.

“The future of the cross country program is very strong. We only lost one runner from last season and we will be gaining a few more going into next season,” said Scotti. “Our freshmen this year were also very fast so I’m excited to see where the program goes.”

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