Genesee Valley Park was aflame on October 24, with rays of sunlight reflecting off of the blend of red, orange and yellow feebly clinging to tree branches. On this lush green battlefield, our RIT Tiger cross-country team faced off with Alfred, Hamilton, Hartwick, Ithaca, Nazareth, University of Rochester, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, St. Lawrence, and Union for the New York State Collegiate Track Conference (NYSCTC) Championships.
For the first time since their 2006 season, the Tigers are a nationally ranked team by the Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Due to their tremendous upsets and awesome placing in events like the Albany Invitational, the Tigers were placed at 26th.
Parents, friends and women’s cross country teams crowded the course, cheering on their respective schools. With their fastest eight runners sidelined, RIT went into the competition a little discouraged, but the scenic landscape proved to be enough inspiration to keep the Tigers powering through and fighting to keep the cockier teams on their toes.
To say that RIT was rowdy during the huddle would be a severe understatement. Their roars could be heard over the rolling hills and could have urged the other teams to run back to their huddles with their tails between their legs. The men bounced around raucously before finally breaking and yelling “TEAM!” and sprinting to their starting positions.
At the beginning, RIT found them positioned in the middle box, between RPI and St. Lawrence. This is usually a notoriously tricky position to start a race off with, and the team’s success
depends on how well they handle themselves. If RIT doesn’t get off to a quick enough start, then they could wear themselves out by trying to make up ground rather than pushing the herd. Once the starting gun was shot, this became a
St. Lawrence bolted right off the line, quickly establishing a dominance that didn’t falter throughout the remainder of the race. RIT stayed in their group for the first leg, encouraging their teammates to keep up with a relatively modest but challenging pace. Although they didn’t break this pack throughout the first mile, they progressively spread out and became evenly distributed between teams like Hamilton and Ithaca. A few hundred meters from the starting, a hill with a slow incline wore out a few of the unprepared runners.
As the first mile came to a close, a voice resembling professional ring announcer, Michael Buffer, came over the loudspeaker and announced that St. Lawrence’s lead runner came in at an extremely impressive 4:50. Hardly fazed by this development, RIT continued to persevere, knowing their limits and working progressively to push them.
To Tiger fans in attendance, their team looked to be biding their time and energy; hopefully, they had enough time to make a move. St. Lawrence parents stated that their men started out too fast, too early, and that this was a common problem with their races. Eavesdropping Tiger fans received a brief but bright glimmer of hope.
As with most cross-country events, after some time, runners begin to assume their comfortable pace, making it more difficult to pass athletes as the race wears on. However, RIT remained steadfast, rarely giving trailing teams the chance to get the better of them. Despite this fighting spirit, RIT still appeared intimidated by the sheer scope of the lead St. Lawrence had over them. If they still wanted to fight for the remaining top spots, RIT would have to cash in their pent-up energy and go all-out to put a dent in the impressive leads taken by athletes from St. Lawrence, U of R and RPI.
The lead runner from St. Lawrence clocked the second mile at a near inhuman 10:00 flat; with a teammate nipping at his heals. With the race almost halfway over, things weren’t looking too great for the Tigers. They were still fighting for positions in the double digits, and the distance to first appeared too formidable and borderline impossible.
The crowd’s roar was ear-piercing as the runners came into the final stretch with steady streams of red, blue and yellow. The first Tiger to cross the finish line was second year
Photojournalism major, Mike Bradley, with a time of 27:16 and placing at 19th. From then on, the rest of RIT’s runners came in at a constant rate until an athlete from Hamilton
officially closed the day.
RIT contested schools like St. Lawrence and University of Rochester throughout the day and made some impressive moves. In the end, the team had a difficult time reaching down and pulling out enough chutzpah to take