Cross country kicks off season in style

Both men and women had top finisher in highly contested opening meet

On a cool morning this past Saturday, third-year students Danielle Kulpins and Sam Merriman bolted across the finish line to claim the top individual spots in condensed races.

Despite typically running eight kilometer races throughout the season, the Case Western Reserve University men’s cross country team ran a six kilometer race to start the season in the Sudeck Sunset Classic Stampede at the Squire Valleevue Farm. Despite having the top two finishers in the shortened race, the men’s team fell just short of John Carroll University, losing 26-29.

The team faltered in the middle of the top seven, as John Carroll grabbed the third through sixth spots to claim their victory. However the young men’s team had several strong showings.

Coming off his first national qualification last season, Merriman did not disappoint in his first race this season. Shaving 30 seconds off his 6K time from his breakout season last year, Merriman grabbed first place handily with a 20 second gap, finishing with a time of 19:24. With the team losing several of their top runners from last season, third-year student Aidan Desanto stepped up and claimed second place with a time of 19:44.

The team’s next finisher left a huge gap between the team’s second and third runner as first-year student Luke Robbins crossed the finish line at 20:16 in his first college race. Rounding off the top five was second-year student James De La Cruz in ninth place and third-year student Ben Whitman in tenth.

With so much young talent, the team comes with a lot of potential and question marks. Regarding the budding team, Head Coach Kathy Lanese said, “Our top five is going to be a little bit experimental, but I am looking forward to seeing how the team comes together.”

The women’s side of the competition ended in a victory for the Spartans and a new course record. After losing their top runner in Kelsey Aamoth, the team was looking for a new leader.

With her strong steeplechase races last spring on the track in mind, Kulpins brought her speed with her into cross country. Speaking of her top runner, Lanese said, “Kulpins looked phenomenal in the preseason and has led the team out in every practice and time trial we have had.” Kulpins finished with a half minute gap over second place to finish the 4K race in 15:02, a remarkable 6:02 per mile pace.

Following Kulpins was second-year student Jennifer Hoffman in third place with a time of 15:35. Just three seconds out of second place, Hoffman showcased her impressive speed and stamina in her first cross country race after coming over from the track and field team. First-year student Vanessa Pasadyn was just six seconds behind Hoffman, grabbing fifth place in her debut.

Other scorers for CWRU were third-year student Rachel Laveson finishing in just under 16 minutes and second-year student Isabelle Torres-Padin recording a time of 16:02.

The women finished with five of the top eight runners to earn a very low score of 24 points. Even while having no fourth-years in the top seven, the team managed to beat an experienced John Carroll team, 24-31.

The Spartans will continue the new season on Saturday, Sept. 17 after a week-long break as the team will travel to Rochester, New York to compete in the Yellowjacket Invitational.

The upcoming meets will include the typical 8K race for men and 6K race for women. Lanese said, “I am looking for our one through five runners gap time to stay consistent over a longer racing distance.”