Cross country ‘missed the mark’ at Patriot League Championships
Men’s and women’s teams placed in sixth and seventh, respectively
American University’s cross country teams competed at the Patriot League Championships on Oct. 28 at Colgate University. The women’s team finished seventh out of 10 teams in the 6k race, while the men finished sixth out of 10 in the 8k race.
On the men’s side, sophomore Kaden Kluth finished 12th with a time of 25:16, earning him a spot on the Men’s Second Team All-League. This was Kluth’s fourth straight team-leading performance. Head coach Sean Graham said it was “not surprising” that Kluth has become a consistent leader.
“Kaden comes in and does the work every day,” Graham said. “He’s got a mindset of elite performance … he has very high expectations for himself.”
Graham also praised the performance of senior Sean Stuck, who finished second for the Eagles for the first time this season.
“He was in the hurt locker for a long time,” Graham said. “But he stayed there and ran really, really well.”
As far as the team’s overall performance, Graham was less pleased. He said that while none of his runners had a particularly bad race, no one besides Kluth and Stuck had an impressive race.
“I think we kind of missed the mark,” Graham said. “They got into positions that were aggressive that I think were appropriate … but when push came to shove, we took our foot off the gas.”
Graham expected the men’s team to contend for fourth place, and he said it was “disappointing” that they slipped to sixth. Not performing to their full potential has been a repeated theme for the men this season, which Graham attributed to their struggle to put together a complete race as a team.
“Here’s the race plan [for a race], and three of 10 are able to execute it,” Graham said. “Then, next race, ‘here’s the race plan,’ and a different group of three or four execute it. That inconsistency from week to week, it’s hard to put the pieces back together and do it effectively when it counts.”
Graham also gave a mixed review of the women’s race, calling it “okay” as a whole.
“I think we did a lot of things that we were looking to do in terms of the strategy for the race,” Graham said. “But I think we were challenged a little bit more in the harder parts of the race than I had hoped.”
The women raced aggressively from the start, which Graham appreciated, but many slid into slower packs towards the middle. To make matters worse, sophomore Hannah Schwab’s spike came off halfway through the race and she did not finish, leaving the squad without one of their top runners.
“That was a big loss in terms of her performance,” Graham said.
A few bright spots emerged from the race, though, as seniors June Mwaniki and Callia Cordasco both had strong performances, leading the way in 31st place and 46th place, respectively. Mwaniki, who has finished first for the Eagles in every race this year, was particularly happy with her assertive strategy.
“I put myself out there,” Mwaniki said. “I was aggressive enough to be satisfied with the results.”
Cordasco said that her race was the best of her season. She often uses her closeness to Mwaniki as a gauge for the quality of her own performance, and said she was happy with the way she “closed the gap” on Saturday.
“When we have such an amazing front runner like that, it’s obviously a team goal to … have our pack be closer to [the front],” Cordasco said. “Seeing her in the race definitely gave me a lot of encouragement.”
Beyond the two seniors, the Eagles also had a tight spread in the middle of their pack — their third through eighth runners were only separated by 10 places. Graham said he believes that if this pack can move up as a whole, the team can start to put together higher finishes.
The Eagles’ next race is the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional on Nov. 10 at Lehigh University. While Graham said that he doesn’t expect either of his teams to qualify for the national championships, he believes Kluth, Stuck and Mwaniki have good chances to qualify as individuals.
This article was edited by Penelope Jennings, Delaney Hoke and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Olivia Citarella.