On a wet and soggy Saturday morning in Schenley Park, Pitt’s men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in their first races of the year, overcoming the subpar conditions to finish in the top two at the annual Duquesne Duals.
The women’s team won the 5k race handily, beating second-place Duquesne by nine points. The men came in second in the 8k competition, despite having the first and second individual finishers.
Senior Kelly Hayes finished first overall for the women — finishing with a time of 17:58.9 — quickly followed by junior Miranda Salvo and senior Amy Kelly, who finished second and fourth, respectively.
Rounding out the top five were junior Makenzie Zeh, who finished sixth with a time of 18:36.2, and senior Emily Loeffelholz, who came in 11th at 19:03.5.
“It was good, we definitely wanted to win,” Hayes said. “So that was our number one goal and we accomplished that.”
Women’s coach Adam Bray was also pleased with the team’s performance, pointing to Hayes and Salvo as runners who impressed him.
“That was a really great race today,” Bray said. “Obviously Kelly Hayes gained the victory, something that we talked about between her and I. I thought that she could definitely do that.”
The men also had several top finishers at the event, with four runners finishing inside the top 10. Sophomore Jackson Morton won with a time of 26:08.7, beating out junior teammate Sebastian Curtin by just three seconds.
Junior Nate Sloan was the next Panther to come across the line, placing ninth, while freshman Zach Lefever and senior Billy Caldwell finished 10th and 17th, respectively.
Still, the team couldn’t manage to win the event, coming in second behind Duquesne. The gap between Lefever and Caldwell was what ultimately led to the loss, with two Duquesne runners placing in between the Panthers’ pair.
Coach Bryan Jackson was pleased with how his athletes raced though, expressing optimism about his athletes’ futures.
“They stayed composed, they didn’t get caught up in the early stages of the race,” Jackson said. “I think [Curtin] and Jackson showed the maturity, a junior and a sophomore, in their ability to stay composed early on and stay confident with what they’re going to do in the second half of the race.”
The weather was the biggest challenge for the Panthers’ runners Saturday morning. Rain pelted the course for up to an hour prior to the start of the women’s race, making the ground wet and muddy. But both the men’s and women’s runners said they had no problem with it, even though it might have affected their competition.
“Our first workout of preseason camp was in torrential downpour and we came out with a great workout,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, everyone’s racing in the same conditions so I don’t think that conditions really play a real factor as long as you don’t let it be a factor.”
Hayes went even further, saying she enjoys running and competing in these conditions.
“We absolutely love the rain,” Hayes said. “We were laughing and joking around because [Coach] Bray always jokes about how we love the rain and absolutely thrive in it.”
Next weekend, the women’s team travels to Penn State to take part in the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational Sept. 8. Meanwhile, the men’s team has on off week before heading to Buffalo, New York to compete in the UB Stampede Invitational Sept. 15.
Both coaches sat out several of their best athletes this week — most notably junior Gillian Schriever and sophomore Nick Wolk — adding to their confidence going forward.
“We sat arguably five of our top ten ACC runners for this meet,” Bray said. “If we throw some firepower back in there, we are capable and we will be pretty good.”