The duration of a cross country season is like a race itself: slower times in the beginning allow for an increased and consistent pace toward the middle of the race, and then the final kick at the end toward the finish line.
As the home stretch of the season approaches for Seton Hall’s men’s and women’s cross country teams, they look to finish their 2017 campaigns strong and maintain consistency in their race times.
Both teams have had strong seasons led by veteran runners and fresh faces, a mixture of experience and youth that complement each other on any squad.
For the women’s team, the jump in performance from this season to last has been astronomical. Led by redshirt junior Christiana Rutkowski, the women are putting together a banner-worthy season with four first-place finishes, to go along with a second-place finish at the Monmouth Kick-off and a sixth place finish at the Metropolitan Championships.
Rutkowski came in first among her teammates in all six of the Pirate’s races and has not placed worse than fifth overall in any meet this season.
At Stony Brook’s Wolfie Invitational on Sept. 9, Rutkowski had a season-best time in the five-kilometer run with a first place performance in 17:44.7 and averaged a 5:42.7 mile.
The senior standout has been the driving force behind the Hall’s dominance, and her experience has led the way for underclassmen like Olivia Hernandez.
As a freshman, Hernandez has established herself as a major contributor to the Seton Hall squad and has placed second among Pirates in half of the team’s meets. Her season personal-record in the five-kilometer run stands at 18:39.64, and she has been the fastest freshman in five of the six meets she participated in.
The men’s team, meanwhile, has not finished worse than fifth place in any race this season and has come in first place in half of its meets.
Jake Simon has led the way for the Hall, as he finished first among his teammates in four of the squad’s races.
In Simon’s first meet as a Pirate in 2014, he placed No. 22 overall at the Monmouth Kick-Off. At the same meet this season, the senior Simon captured the top spot with his 19:04.4 effort in the six-kilometer run. Within the three years, he decreased his time by over one minute to outrun the other 59 of the race’s participants in this season’s contest.
One minute may not seem like a lot, but when races are determined by seconds, a minute could make all the difference.
Simon also improved his time by 33.9 seconds from this meet last year, which lowered his mile splits from 5:16.1 to 5:06.9.
Consistency is valued in an endurance sport like cross country, and Jesse Southard has been a picture of consistency this season, finishing second-place behind Simon in the season’s first three races.
Southard’s second place finish at the NYIT Invitational on Sept. 16 found him three seconds behind the senior for a season-best time in the eight-kilometer run at 24:27.56. Even though the sophomore finished his most recent race, the Metropolitan Championships, in 27:32.6, Southard has proven to be the next leader of the Pirate squad.
With men and women combining for consistently high-level finishes, another successful season, the likes of which has not been seen for many years, is coming toward the finish line for head coach John Moon and company.
Andrea Keppler can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @keppler_andrea.