2011 Men's Cross Country Championship Review
The 2011 fall running season came to a close in early November for the Penn State Altoona menís cross country team, and for the first time, the Lions ended at the ECAC Championship race. It capped the programís tenth year of running, keeping alive a tradition of hard work and team unity.
After several early season meets, the team entered the championship phase of the season by competing in the Cross Country Only Championship hosted by Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. This was a meet that hosted schools who do not compete in track and field in the spring. Coach Matt Manfred says the team used this competition to prepare for the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference meet two weeks later.
"Going into the CCOC meet, we knew that we would be running head-to-head with Medaille College, who we anticipated being our focus competition at the AMCC race at the end of October," said Manfred. "We wanted to do well against them here and see how we stacked up."
While the CCOCís Seneca Lake State Park course was perfectly flat, the runners had to contend with 40-mile-per-hour winds coming off of the lake. By getting out hard, gaining a good position, and then fighting for it, the men were able to finish the day with five season bests, a ninth place finish out of 13 teams, and a 19-point victory over AMCC rival Medaille.
Two weeks later, the men arrived in Niagara Falls, New York for the AMCC conference meet hosted by Medaille. The rain-filled autumn and the low, lakeside course made the championship an eight kilometer slog through the mud.
"Never have Heidi or I seen a course that muddy," Manfred said. "You had to see it to believe it."
After previewing the course on Friday, the team determined that the race was going to hinge on being able to get a good position early, and then race hard and smart as the course allowed. The eight Penn State Altoona men did exactly that, picking up places through the second half of the race. For the third year in a row, two Penn State Altoona men earned All-Conference honors. Freshmen Chaz Ramos and Michael Lock became the eighth and ninth All-Conference men in the history of the program, leading their team to a third place team finish behind Penn State Behrend and Franciscan University.
To round out their competitive season, the Lion harriers headed to Williamstown, Massachusetts to race for the first time in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Cross Country Championship. The focus was not going to be on team score, but rather having each individual race hard and smart in the biggest field of the season with 300 finishers. The 8K course was in great shape and the top-seven squad ran well, with Ramos placing 134th in 30:27 to lead the team to a 39th place finish among the 44 scoring teams.
The 2011 campaign was a successful one. In addition to a top-three team finish in the AMCC and two runners achieving All-Conference honors, sophomore Will Aldridge was selected by his teammates to the AMCC All-Conference Sportsmanship Team. Coaches Matt and Heidi Manfred were also selected as the AMCC Coaches of the Year for womenís cross country. Manfred was pleased with the results of the squad, knowing that there would be challenges to overcome with a young team.
"Certainly this squad didnít come into the season with a lot of 8K experience, and that was a factor for the men this fall," he explained. "Five of our top seven were running in their first collegiate 8K cross country season."
After improving during the season, Manfred tells that "those same five are eager to return in 2012 to form the core of a new team, and to continue the pride and determination that has always been the mark of Penn State Altoona menís cross country."
TAGS: men's cross country