In injury-riddled season, depth separates cross country teams

first_imgAs redshirt freshman Noah Beveridge prepared for his first championship race at Syracuse on Nov. 1, he realized the significance of the moment. The then-No. 28 Syracuse men lined up for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship race at a decisive moment in its season.Once a perennial powerhouse, the Orange was vulnerable, coming off its first ever defeat at ACCs in 2018. SU had just suffered its worst regular season defeat since 2001 — as far back as the team’s website records go — in Wisconsin two weeks prior. Plus, the Orange had recently learned that its best and most experienced runner, senior Aidan Tooker, would miss the remainder of the year.Beveridge saw the situation as a turning point and stepped up, finishing 15th and helping a depleted Syracuse to its sixth ACC title in seven years.“I was really happy to be All-ACC in my first cross country ACCs,” Beveridge said. “That was kind of the goal all year.”The 2019 season has been filled with struggle for both the men’s and women’s teams. Both sides lost top performers during the scheduled month-long break in the middle of their season and have gone in opposite directions since. After the men and women both swept the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown, the first at the event since its inception in 2013, the men stumbled in Wisconsin before turning around and recapturing the ACC Championship. Then, they secured an NCAA Championship bid with a second-place finish at Regionals. But the women posted three straight poor finishes, ultimately ending their season early this past weekend.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe difference between the two sides has come at the back end of their lineups. While the men have been able to plug in young runners — like Beveridge — who have contributed earlier than expected, the women have failed to find production outside their top scorers.The top of the men’s lineup includes seasoned performers Joe Dragon, Kevin James, Simon Smith and Dominic Hockenbury. While they will not always be the top scorers in any given race, they possess the maturity valued by head coach Brien Bell to be consistent contributors.Behind the group of experienced runners, underclassmen have filled in the hole left by Tooker. Multiple teammates said that the absence of Tooker from big races down the stretch has made it one of their most special seasons in recent history. “It is even sweeter just to be able to do it without him,” Beveridge said.Redshirt sophomore Nathan Henderson led the Orange in ninth at ACCs and turned in another strong performance at Regionals finishing 10th. Redshirt freshmen Nathan Lawler and Beveridge have also had an instant impact at the back of the lineup, totaling three top-21 finishes between them in the last two races.“When you are 18 years old, you don’t know what you don’t know,” Bell said. “Most of the time when you are young, you go to NCAA Championships you get crushed, the second time you do a little bit better, and the third time you get it figured out. It takes a very rare and special athlete to get it right the first time.”Kevin Camelo | Co-Digital EditorSophomore Matthew Scrape also finished in the top-50 in both championship races. Beveridge, Henderson and Lawler each earned All-ACC honors as underclassmen.“There are not many redshirt freshmen that end of being All-ACC when they are that young,” James said. “It is shades of someone like Colin Bennie and hopefully that is where they end up.”In contrast, the women have not been able to replace the production of sophomore Laura Dickinson, who went down in early October with an undisclosed injury. While the top of the women’s lineup has come through, the back-half hasn’t kept pace.Redshirt junior Kelsey Potts turned in a good performance at ACCs placing 52nd but failed to follow it up with a team-low 104th place finish at Regionals. Freshman Justus Holden-Betts has performed well for a first-year runner but has failed to springboard herself to the top of the lineup the way several underclassmen on the men’s side have. Senior Madeleine Davison has seen a placing drop at every event over the past year and hasn’t impacted races either.Consistent performances from All-ACC junior Amanda Vestri and redshirt junior Rachel Bonner kept the Orange afloat, but a lack of depth kept them from competing at the national level. Overall, the women placed fifth at ACCs.Heading into the Wisconsin Invitational, the women were ranked No. 15. There, they finished 25th. Bonner called it a “wakeup call,” but SU hasn’t recovered — or been ranked — since.“There are certain things you have to tackle mentally before you get to the race, I call them demons in my head,” Bonner said after Wisconsin. “The doubts that are in your head.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 19, 2019 at 11:04 pm Contact Eli: [email protected] last_img

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