The Saint Leo University’ s Men’s and Women’s Cross Country teams sent their best seven male and female runners to compete at the Paul Short Invitational at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania On the morning of Sept. 30, the team left for their flight that went directly from Tampa to Philadelphia. In the previous year, the Lions already used this meet to have a fast race before heading into the Championship season.
The cooler climate and lower humidity makes racing up north perfect to run fast and compete against the best programs in the nation. Both Saint Leo Teams competed in the Paul Short Gold race that is mainly composed by Division I schools. Harvard, Georgetown, Florida, Penn State, Georgia, and Yale are only some of the big schools that sent their best runners to compete in this meet.
Against these nationally ranked Division I programs and many strong Division II schools, the Lions were fighting to show their potential. The men were led by Freshman Ronald Cheserek, who improved the school record by 19 seconds in a time of 24:23, followed by Rafal Matuszczak with a time of 24:52. Antony Deleva, Niclas Bez, and Joseph Fuller rounded up the team result, placing 32nd out of the 38 teams. A dam Urbanik and Chris Cabret finished sixth and seventh for the Lions. Number eight ranked Iona College won the College Gold 8K event, followed by number five Georgetown in second place and the Division II powerhouse Adams State (Colo.) finishing third.
Cheserek was previously honored with the National Runner of the Week award after winning the University of Florida’s invitational against Division I competitors; it was the first time in Saint Leo history that an athlete earned this achievement. On top of that he earned his second SSC runner of the week award.
“I’m very excited with the way the men raced today. We had discussed closing the gap and running as a team for the past couple weeks. Although the gap isn’t quite where we want it, they still competed and performed well. Both the upperclassmen who were here last year and those who were not all performed well and above my expectations. However, there is still more work to do moving forward, but we are in a good position only 21 days out from our conference meet,” said Kent Reiber, head cross country coach, after the race.
On the Women’s side, the competition looked strong as well, but the Lions did not hold back in their 6k race. The Saint Leo team went out strong and only allowed a few competitors pass them. Junior Colett Rampf had a tremendous run breaking her own school record by 31 seconds in a time of 20:23 that placed her tenth. The two sophomore’s Alyssa Bayliff and Laura Tobin followed her with times of 21:36 and 22:22. Lauren Csubak and Natalie McCormick rounded up the team results followed by Noemi Anaya and Haley Roussell.
These performances placed the Lady Lions 33rd out of 45 teams in a mainly Division I dominated field. Yale University won the women’s race by placing three of their runners in the top twenty.
“This was an incredible race for us. We were running on tired legs, but still performed as if we were fresh. To have more than half of the girls run personal bests at this point in the season is truly remarkable. Colett ran absolutely lights out and finished the race very strong, as the top D2 runner in the meet. We had huge PRs from Alyssa Bayliff, Laura Tobin, and Lauren Csubak,” said Reiber.
The Lions will compete on Oct. 8 on the Abbey Golf course for their first home meet this year. After that, the Championship season begins with the Conference Championship being hosted by Florida Tech. Their season will end with hosting the South Regional and the National Championship on their home course. It will be the first National Championship that Saint Leo will host.