After years of effort, the Swarthmore men’s and women’s cross country teams have finally found a place among the top. On Saturday, Sept. 29, the men’s team crossed the Dickinson Long Run finish line in fourth place; not to be outdone, the women’s team finished in equally impressive fashion, tying for third.
While the men’s team saw stellar performances by seasoned veterans, the women’s team broke out with some fresh legs. Jacob Phillips ’13 ran the 8K race in 26:08, nabbing a second place individual finish, while Jenna Cody ’16 ran 23:24.5 in the 6K, grabbing fourth place.
“The team did really well, especially seeing that we’re starting to get people back from injuries,” Phillips said. According to him, what is even more impressive, however, is the improvement he has witnessed and been a part of for the past four years.
“When I came in as a freshman, the team was not in the best shape — four of our top five runners that year were freshmen. Each year since then, we’ve gotten faster and faster, adding new runners to the pack. Now, after four years, the team is better than ever and poised to do better than any team has done before,” Phillips said.
Head coach Peter Carroll has been glad to have someone in Phillips’ role as a leader of the team. “What you see with Jacob is three years of hard work piled on top of each other. Jacob has savvy and experience working for him,” Carroll said.
As a freshman, Cody is still dealing with the exhilaration of the meet. “It’s exciting to be the first Swarthmore finisher,” Cody admitted, “but I’m not going to let it go to my head.” As to her successful race, she credited her self-discipline in her trainings. “I’ve been working on increasing my mileage and becoming consistent with my training,” she said.
While Cody may have felt humble, her coach has certainly noticed her mental toughness, as well as her natural potential. “Jenna has talent and is carefree,” Carroll said. “She’s like a puppy dog chasing a deer through the woods — no fear.” Despite the somewhat humorous mental image his praise may evoke, one thing is clear: Cody is fast, fierce and a force to be reckoned with.
Despite both teams’ strong performances, they still have a long list of improvements they hope to tackle. “Cross country is a team sport just like soccer or volleyball. We have to work as a team and develop strategies to beat our competitors,” Cody said. Individually, she also has a few more aspects of her running she plans on working on. “I’m hoping to improve my speed at the end of races and on hills,” she explained.
With the upcoming Princeton Invitational on October 13, the teams will be pushing at full speed ahead in order to race their best. Cody in particular is highly anticipating this meet; as a student at Princeton High School, she trained on the course multiple times.
Preparing for the Princeton meet will be challenging, as Phillips has already accepted. “Getting ready for Princeton is tricky, since it’s flat and fast. We want to develop some speed work for that course by doing interval repeats,” he explained.
As difficult as it will be, Carroll sees the upcoming race as a doorway to an even greater level of success. “Princeton will be a stepping stone for the championship part of our season. We need to continue to build confidence at the full championship distance,” he said. Phillips echoed his coach’s thoughts, adding, “I think that mentally we just have to get in the mindset that we can compete against the D1 programs that will be competing at Princeton — and we definitely can.”
Looking at the results, it is difficult to disagree with Phillips. Judging by both teams’ performances last Saturday, they certainly look poised to take the stage in two weeks and get Swarthmore College to the top of the list.