The Georgetown men’s cross country team traveled to the University of Wisconsin’s inaugural Wisconsin adidas Invitational this past weekend anxious for some tough competition early in the season. While the team turned in a number of quality performances, they ultimately found more competition than expected as a much-improved Syracuse squad surprised the field and topped second-place Georgetown by a score of 41 to 61. The unranked Orange knocked off five nationally ranked teams in the process of winning the team title, but more importantly they showed the defending-champion Hoyas and rest of the Big East that they are a different squad from last year’s that finished fifth in the conference.

“[The Big East] is definitely not going to be the way it was last year. I think it’s good that we got a little bit tested early … maybe we got a little humbled,” redshirt senior Andrew Bumbalough said. “We have to go back to work and realize that [the title] is not just going to be given to us this year and that we’re just going to have to go out there and race really, really well.”

Bumbalough picked up right where he left off last year in his first race this season, besting the field with a time of 23:54 that proved to be just enough for the win. While sitting behind the leaders through a quick first 5 kilometers. Bumbalough began to break away over the next 2 kilometers as the pace slowed. Having a sizeable 40-meter lead with a little less than 1000 meters to go, men’s Head Coach Pat Henner signaled for Bumbalough to ease it in for the conservative win.

However, unbeknownst to Bumbalough, a chase pack that included redshirt freshman Mark Dennin, Iowa freshman Jeff Thode and Syracuse sophomore Tito Medrano were steadily closing the gap, finally catching him with a little over 200m to go.

“I didn’t realize [it] but they started to gain ground back on me and I had no idea … as soon as I realized that they were there I was able to shift gears and to sprint and to finish,” Bumbalough said.

As the quartet passed through the chute, only 2.4 seconds separated Bumbalough from Dennin, who placed fourth.

Despite being outkicked down the stretch, Dennin’s race may have been the highlight for the Blue and Gray as the youngest Hoya to compete showed that he can perform against some of the NCAA’s best.

Dennin who was in the top 15 to 20 places at the 2-kilometer mark, slowly moved his way up the field until he found himself in the chase pack at 6 kilometers and then held on for the finish.

“It just gives me a lot of confidence and kind of tells me that I’m in shape and ready to run with the guys on this team and the rest of the guys in the Big East and the NCAA.” Dennin said. “It kind of shows that I’m ready. Ready to run, ready to go.”

Following Dennin were red-shirt seniors Mike Krisch and Mike Banks, who finished 12th and 18th, respectively. Both have been consistent performers for the Hoyas the past few years and showed early on this year that they can again be counted on.

Red-shirt sophomore T.C. Lumbar rounded out the Hoyas’ top five, running a solid 24:44 to finish 25th.

Overall, the Hoyas ran well enough to beat No, 4 Wisconsin, No. 17 Arkansas, No. 20 Auburn and No. 23 Michigan. There were, however, a few disappointing performances that they will have to improve upon when they face Syracuse again at the Big East Championships.

Junior Ayalew Taye, who came back to campus this year anemic, showed that he is still not back to his usual form finishing 37th in 24:54.1. Redshirt junior Sandy Roberts couldn’t crack the Hoyas top seven and finished 45th overall in 25:00.6. Finally, redshirt senior Levi Miller, a 2008 cross-country All-American who will be heavily counted on come championship season, fell sick shortly before the race and finished 70th in 25:22.6.

Collectively, the Hoyas know that they will have to work hard to reclaim the title at the Big East Championships in a little less than a month.

“It’s a great wake-up call for us. We got to understand that at Big East [Syracuse] is going to come prepared again. If we run like we did this weekend we’re not going to be able to get it done,” Dennin said.

Despite the loss, it is worth noting that the meet meant much more to the Orange than it did to the Hoyas. Being located in a tough region, Syracuse will more than likely have to make its way into NCAA nationals by way of an at-large bid rather than the automatic qualifier that is awarded to the first two teams at the regional level. In order to secure an at-large bid, Syracuse needs to pick up as many at large points as possible by knocking off ranked teams that will more than likely gain automatic bids.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Georgetown has the luxury of being in a relatively weak region and therefore does not need to rely on picking up at-large points in the regular season. With this being the case, the Hoyas trained tough in the week leading up to the race, knowing that they could afford not to be well-rested at this point in the season.

On the women’s side, the Blue and Gray stayed local this past weekend and finished second at the George Mason Invitational in Centreville, Va., falling one point shy of first-place University of Virginia.

With the Hoyas’ focus still being on pre-nationals, the team ran as a pack through nearly 5 kilometers of the 6-kilometer course, and then picked up the pace over the last 1000 meters. In the Hoyas’ front pack was sophomore Emily Infeld, freshman Emily Jones, senior Lauren Gregory, and redshirt senior Natasha LaBeaud.

Cavalier junior Catherine White pulled away from the rest of the field at the 2-kilometer mark and never looked back, winning handily in 20:41.

However, as the Hoya group started to spread out over the last portion of the race, Infeld broke and chased down Virginia sophomore Morgane Gay who was sitting in second. Infeld then picked up the pace and gapped Gay, to finish second in 21:06.

“We were running together for a while, the last 1000 [meters] it picked up some, and I gapped her a little bit, and beat her by a little bit at the end,” Infeld said. “It had been a while since I raced, so I was looking forward to have this first meet under my belt.”

Coming in next for the Hoyas was Jones, who hung tough behind Infeld and showed that her freshman debut win was no fluke, finishing fourth in 21:20. Gregory, who stayed a tad behind the pack from the onset, caught LaBeaud at 5 kilometers. Both ran strong over the last 2 kilometers and finished sixth and seventh respectively, separated by less than a second.

Freshman Kirsten Kasper rounded out the scoring for the Hoyas running down the Cavalier’s fifth runner, finishing 12th with a time of 22:06. Coming away from the meet, the Hoyas will look to address the gap between their fourth and fifth runner, which stood at 26 seconds. In a small meet like this past weekend, it was only a matter of five places, but at the larger, more competitive races from here on out, that gap could end up costing the Hoyas a lot more points.

As Kasper continues to develop,however, and sophomore Katie McCafferty and redshirt senior Lise Ogrodnick round into race shape, the Hoyas look to be able to close that gap by a good margin at Pre-Nationals.

“I know between that crew we can close that gap down significantly, and all of a sudden we are a much better team than we were at George Mason,” women’s Head Coach Chris Miltenberg said.

Although the meet did not have a very deep field, it was a missed opportunity for the Hoyas to pick up a valuable at-large point by besting UVA, who will almost assuredly qualify for Nationals with an automatic bid from a relatively weak region.

“We were happy with how we did, but it is a little frustrating when it’s just by one point,” Infeld said. “But I think that only motivates us and will help us in the future with improving.”

“To be honest, that was an at-large point that we were really hoping we could get. Virginia’s a very good team … probably a much better team than people anticipated early season,” Miltenberg added.

“But knowing where we’re trying to go in the future, I actually walked away from there very

excited.”

Both the men and women will return to action in two weeks as the men travel to the Penn State National Invitational and the women head to Terre Haute, Ind., for Pre-Nationals.”

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