Men and women sprint into top four in points

The Mike Woods Cross Country Invitational, hosted by the Geneseo Knights of the State University of New York at Geneseo, attracted 39 teams to New York’s Genesee Valley last Saturday. A needle in the haystack, the Rensselaer men’s and women’s cross country teams competed at their meet last Saturday.

Despite this being the largest meet of the season for our teams, it didn’t manage to keep either of them from scoring in the top five for points. The women scored third out of 32 teams in their 453-person 5-km race, while the men placed third out of 38 teams in their 534-person 8-km race. Much of the credit for the men’s elevated rank goes to the victor of the 8-km race, junior Ben Fazio.

Striking again for the second time this season, Fazio won his race in 24:46.6, averaging a rapid five minute mile pace that put him 6.5 seconds ahead of second place finisher Isaac Garcia-Cassani of Geneseo. Three weeks before, Fazio won the men’s 6-km race at the Engineers’ home meet in Saratoga Springs.

“This weekend was another big step forward for myself and for the team, and we’re all very excited about moving forward into the championship season,” said Fazio. “This race was by far the biggest one we’ll go to all season, so I think it presented a new challenge for some of our younger guys and they really stepped up well. The plan going into the meet was to run the first 5k at an even pace and then start to get quicker from there and move up in the pack. For me, this meant staying towards the front and waiting for other guys to make moves in the first four miles of the race, and then taking the lead with about half a mile to go, which worked perfectly. The course was in good condition…and that lead to a lot of our guys running personal bests.”

Second for the Rensselaer men was freshman Grant O’Connor, who finished in 20th place in 25:33.1. Next came sophomore Matthew Stewart in 49th place in 25:54.7, then in 79th and 82nd place, freshman Sean O’Connor and junior Garrett Davis with times of 26:19.0 and 26:20.4, respectively.

The women enjoyed fast times and diverse competition as well. Senior Shannon Trant crossed the line in sixth place in 22:00.5, trailed closely behind by teammate sophomore Jaime Lord in seventh in 22:03.0. Junior and girls team co-captain Maddie Dery finished in 15th with a time of 22:15.8.

“We were really proud that our hard work paid off and put us in the top three teams in attendance,” said Dery. “Most of the teams from our region were there, which is a good sign for when we face off against them again at regionals. We also beat many teams that are ranked above us, so we are expecting our national ranking to go up this week.”