For some students, running through Schenley Park is simply recreation or exercise, but on… For some students, running through Schenley Park is simply recreation or exercise, but on Saturday, the Pitt cross country teams ran through the park with higher stakes.
The men’s and women’s cross country teams kicked off their seasons in the Duquesne Duals with the men taking fourth and the women placing eighth, both out of nine.
After a disappointing performance at last year’s Big East tournament — the men finished 11th and the women finished last out of 16 teams— this event was an opportunity for Pitt to come out and begin anew.
The Saturday morning meet included teams such as Duquesne, Carnegie Mellon, Canisius, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph’s, St. Louis, St. Vincent, Xavier and Youngstown State.
“I would give it an 8 for overall performance on a 1-to-10 scale,” assistant coach Clint Bell said.
Last year at the Duquesne Duals, Pitt’s women’s team finished 5-2 in head-to-head matchups. Junior Miya Johnson was a key performer for the team in last year’s race.
“Miya Johnson, who led the team last year, will definitely take her place among the top of our squad as the season progresses, as well as Rachel Erny,” Bell said.
For the men, current seniors Joshua Christopher and Teddy Miller finished in the top 10 runners in last year’s race. Both turned in great times again this year with Miller placing sixth at 25:44 and Christopher placing 18th at 26:20.
As the men finished 6-3 in head-to-head competition, two other Panthers also placed in the top 25. Andrew Cerrito finished 19th with 26:23 and Kevin Hull finished 24th with 26:42. Vinnie DePalma wasn’t far behind with a 27:12 finish.
“The men’s team is still strong at the top but lacks depth with Chase Broussard not returning and Greg Kareis who is redshirting this cross country season due to a back injury,” Bell said. “I am looking for a sixth and seventh man to step up and fill a void.”
Bell speculated that these people may be Dontave Cowsette and Wesley Washington, but he will “know more as the season progresses.”
“Kevin opened up one minute faster than last season, and Cerrito opened over a minute faster than last season,” Bell said.
For the women, sophomore Emily Barno and senior Carrie Mavrikis recorded personal bests to kick off the season. Barno led the Panthers with a time of 19:42, shaving almost two minutes off her time from last year’s duals.
“Elesia Wilson had a great opener as a freshman, and freshman Susannah Feinstein had a good opener as well,” Bell said.
While the individual performances weren’t enough to earn the team a higher place finish, they were enough to win Bell’s confidence.
The women won all seven of their head-to-head competitions, including knocking off Carnegie Mellon by a narrow 28-27 margin. The women won their matches in convincing fashion, defeating St. Joseph’s by 35 points.
“Everyone ran faster than they did last year. This year’s team is a better team. The upperclassmen are stronger, and the freshmen are a surprise. The team is young, and we have a lot of room for improvement,” Bell said.
The teams will run again at Schenley Park on Sept. 18 in a tri-meet with Duquesne and Bucknell.