Early season cross country races raise numerous questions and provide few answers. In general, these September races open the forum of debate for late October and November. How fit is an individual compared to last year? Where will this team finish at their conference, regional, or even national meet?
This weekend, the University of Virginia hosted the Panorama Farms Invitational in Earlysville, VA. Perhaps UVA should have had their meet sponsored by Apple since the new iOS 6 operating system comes with a panoramic photo option. Puns aside, this meet gives some insight regarding two men’s teams: the the University of Oklahoma and the University of Virginia.
Both teams are on the opposite ends of the men’s national poll, but both deployed a similar racing strategy this weekend. We’ll title their tactic “The Monte Cristo."
SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT READ THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
The novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas revolves around the themes of vengeance and justice. Edmond Dantes is a young and succesful merchant sailor in early 19th century France. On the evening of his wedding, he falsely accused of being a Bonaparist traitor and is imprisoned for life by three men who have become jealous of his life.
Eventually, Dantes escapes prison, finds the treasure buried in Monte Cristo, and returns to France disguised as The Count of Monte Cristo. This is a very short synopsis of Dumas' thrilling tale.
The rest of the (long) story involves Dantes exacting his revenge over the men who had him imprisoned. There's justice, love, intricate character relationships, violence, and betrayal. It's an incredible work of fiction, but if reading is not your cup of tea, there's also a film version. At the end of the story, Dantes fittingly reveals his identity to his opponents and all is well.
END OF SPOILERS
As it stands, OU (#4) is Edmond Dantes because they have not revealed their true identity. I am not saying that Wisconsin (#1), Oklahoma State (#2), BYU (#3), and Portland (#5) are the men who have their lives ruined in the novel, but for all intents and purposes, lets just agree on that point.
None of those teams have had their true season debut. Since OU is to make their first move, why should they reveal their true motives? Pack running not only shows that the tean has confidence, but keeps their true fitness hidden from their rivals.
Although Oklahoma won the UVA Panorama Farms Invitational this weekend, the important factor is how they did it. OU had a 19.5-second spread from their top man (senior Bill Kogel; 24:11.8) to their fifth man (senior Riley Masters; 24:31.3). Senior Kyle King was the team’s sixth man in 24:32.6.
It should be noted that finishing in 13th place for UVA was freshman and doppelganger Kyle King.
If you watch the video, Virginia senior Sean Keveren passes the quartet of OU runners with a few meters left in the race, but it does not concern the four. This was a controlled effort early in the season.
Last year, we saw the Wisconsin men use a similar tactic in their races leading up to nationals. They won the NCAA National Champion with 97 points to second place OSU’s 139.
Here are the major races that Wisconsin ran as a pack leading up the national championship:
Bill Dellinger Invitational
Big 10 Championship
NCAA Great Lakes Regional
Here is Oklahoma’s results from the past weekend (full results here):
After spending the summer training in Flagstaff, AZ, why bother trying to run all-out at a meet in September?
Oklahoma took the win over #21 Michigan and #22 Arkansas, but another surprise of the meet was the host school, UVA.
Although UVA finished in third with 66 points, they did so without All-American Mark Amirault. Amirault finished 27th at NCAAs last fall, but did not compete this past outdoor season because of a stress reaction in his left femur. Again, UVA is playing this one close to the chest and should move up in the national rankings following this meet (they were unranked last week).
Next week should provide a greater insight to how this cross country season will pan out. This upcoming Friday and Saturday features meets such as Paul Short, Notre Dame, Bill Dellinger, Stanford, Greater Louisville, and Roy Griak.
It's rare that a team is able to conserve energy by pack running while being able to win such high caliber meets. Then again, there is a reason why these teams are ranked among the top five in the national polls. We will most likely have to wait until nationals to see the true identities of these teams.