By Carl Sessions
The Grinnell cross country teams started strong last Saturday at the annual Les Duke Invitational the Oakland Acres Golf Club outside Grinnell. On a balmy afternoon, cheered on by fellow students and professors, the Grinnell women placed second with a score of 82—33 points higher than the meet champion, Wartburg College.
“The meet went really well,” said Sarah Burnell ’14. “We beat Monmouth, which was the team we were aiming for.”
Burnell led the Grinnell women with a time of 23:04 for the six kilometer course. She placed seventh out of 147.
The Grinnell men placed fourth with a score of 125.
“We ran pretty well,” Frank Canady ’14 said. “I would say that most people had a good race. It wasn’t a stellar one, but we don’t need that right now—we need that later in the season.”
Canady led the Grinnell men with a time of 26:27 for the eight kilometer course. He placed 16th out of 207.
Les Duke is the only home race for the Pioneers. The meet, as well as the Track and Field Complex, is named after former cross country and track coach, G. Lester Duke.
“It was great to race in Grinnell,” Canady said. “Professors, students, people from other teams [all showed up]. It was awesome—it always is.”
“I think the entire men’s basketball team showed up to watch the race,” Burnell said. “It was really nice.”
The meet was the first of the season and provided both teams with the opportunity to size up the competition.
“The level of competitiveness this year was much higher than my first two years,” Canady said. “Central especially has a very good team. So does Wartburg.”
Canady anticipates that these two schools will be big players this year.
“At this point, they’re just fitter, but given another eight weeks or so, if we play our cards right, I think we can get them,” Canady said.
According to Burnell, the women’s main competitors this year will be St. Norbert and Monmouth. Though St. Norbert wasn’t at Les Duke, they will race them this weekend at the ACM-St. Olaf Invitational in Northfield, Minnesota.
The returning women’s squad is strong this year, and Burnell feels they have been running well.
“We have four or five first years who are pretty strong, and we didn’t lost too many seniors who were in scoring positions,” Burnell said. “[Also] we’re in really good shape…we have a good 12 to 13 people who are right up there in the positions we need them.”
The Grinnell men lost no scoring seniors this year, and are energized by a strong first-year class. Two first-years placed in the scoring seven. Adam Dalton ’16 was second in the Grinnell lineup and 18th overall.
“[I] beat my goal time for the race by nearly a minute,” Dalton said in an email. “It is awesome that two first years are on varsity because not only can we make an immediate impact, we can also form a very strong foundation for future teams.”
The quality of this season’s first-years runs deep.
“We have excellent fist-years: Adam Dalton, Nate Kolacia [’16] and Patrick Kinley [’16] are all in excellent shape,” Canady said. “They ran great [at Les Duke].”
With the season just underway, the Pioneers are keeping this year’s goals in mind.
“[We want to] win conference and qualify for nationals,” Canady said. “I think we can win conference if we have all of our guys healthy.”
Besides having the team win conference, Burnell says that she and Stephanie Rouse ’13 are looking at qualifying for nationals.
“We’re not quite sure where the team stands, [but] that’s something we’re aiming for,” Burnell said.
Nationals this year are in Terre Haute, Indiana. Rouse qualified the past season, setting a personal record and finishing 149th. In 2010 the entire men’s team qualified and placed 26th.
“I think that if we peak correctly and at the right time we can qualify,” Canady said. “But we need to have all of our guys do everything right for the next eight weeks…we can do this, there’s just not a lot of margin for error.”