NCAA cross country pundits will agree that you cannot look too deeply into early season meets. Often teams view the low-key races just as exaggerated workouts and hold out top runners, preferring to save full efforts for bigger meets down the road. While both the Georgetown men’s and women’s teams gave purposely conservative efforts this past weekend in their first meets of the seasons, both teams took first place and showed that there’s plenty to get excited about already.

The men traveled to Harrisonburg, Va., to compete in the James Madison University Open Invitational, where they bested the nine-team field in convincing fashion. Using the meet as an opportunity to get acclimated with the grassy, hilly terrain that usually is country courses, the men executed to perfection a race plan that called for taking the first mile out at race pace, running comfortably through the middle and running the last mile hard.

Leading the pace for the Hoyas was redshirt junior Levi Miller, who shattered the course record with a time of 24:43.06. The time is especially significant because the former course record was held by Matt Debole (COL ’08), who, back in 2005, ran 25:03 on the course with current redshirt junior Andrew Bumbalough. Both Debole and Bumbalough went on to have great years.

oreover, senior teammates Justin Sheid and Mike Banks, who finished second and third, both came in under the old course record as well. Redshirt freshman James Grimes showed the Hoyas that he’s ready to contribute to the team, posting a solid effort to take fourth in the team scoring. Redshirt junior Alex Mason and senior Brandon Bonsey took fifth and sixth respectively, ensuring the Georgetown sweep of the top five scores.

Head Coach Pat Henner was happy with the team’s times so early in the year.

“To have three guys run faster than the course record, and then to have James Grimes run that fast, I was just really pleased,” he said. “I think it just shows how strong we are and now it’s just a matter of keeping everybody healthy and focusing on gradual improvement over the course of the season.”

While Miller stressed keeping the meet in perspective as an intensified workout, and focusing on the more important meets, he too was impressed with where the team is at to start the season.

“It’s a great indicator,” Miller said. “It’s just a testimony to how deep and how strong we are. Everyone’s really excited about it. … everything is just coming together really perfectly right now … we’re all psyched.”

On the women’s side, the team traveled up to Princeton, where they took first at the Old Nassau Invitational. The women were under a controlled race plan as well, holding together as a pack through the first four kilometers and then pushing the pace over the last two kilometers. Senior Natasha LaBeaud led the way for the Hoyas, finishing third in the team race with at time of 22:27.50. After the disappointing season last year in which she battled injuries, the performance was an indicator that LaBeaud is ready for a solid season.

“I was really happy with how it went,” LaBeaud said. “For my part of the race, I felt like it was good to go, so I just kind of took off and did what I needed to do. It felt pretty comfortable throughout most of the race which is a good feeling to have at the beginning, but I’m just using it as a base to build up from; putting everything in perspective.”

Following LaBeaud was the freshman duo of Emily Infeld and Katie McCafferty, who hung right with the pack and finished fourth and fifth respectively despite the typical opening-race nerves. Rounding out the top five for the Hoyas were juniors Avril Ogrodnick and Kelsey Malmquist.

Head Coach Chris Miltenberg was impressed with the team atmosphere supporting the effort, and LaBeaud’s return to form was especially encouraging.

“I was really fired up to see Natasha [do so well]. She definitely made it back to where she belongs. It was exciting to see for her, and obviously for us as a team too,” Miltenberg said.

The men and women will compete against William and Mary in two weeks, where they will look to get another solid effort under their belts before the more competitive meets begin.

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