By Aaron Williams–
The University of Louisville men’s cross-country team has started their season off ahead of the pace. Led by the performance of sophomore Tyler Byrne at both the Mid-America Opener and the Navy Invitational, where the Cardinals finished first and fourth as a team respectively, Louisville has claimed the No. 19 ranking in the nation. This is the highest the Cards have been ranked since 2007 when they earned the No. 13 ranking by claiming the first Big East title in the program’s history.
“It felt good to be able to open the season up and come out on top,” said Byrne of his team and individual performance at the Mid-America Opener, where the sophomore claimed his first collegiate individual title with a 6K time of 18:30. Byrne would go on to finish second at the 8K Navy Invitational with a time of 24:22.60.
Junior Gordon Dooley, who finished runner-up at the Mid-America Opener with a time of 18:44 and 18th at the Navy Invitational with a time of 24:57.47, is happy with his team’s success so far but has his eyes on other goals for the 2011 season.
“Our expectations are, as always, that we want to compete well at the Big East Championship and hopefully be able to win it this year, I think we have a squad that can do that,” said Dooley. “Running is one of those sports that you’ve got to be patient throughout the whole season. Every workout really does count for the future and your season. It’s all about the future really, that’s what keeps me going.”
In the Cards’ very near future is the Greater Louisville Classic at the E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park on Oct. 1.
“We’ve all ran the course before and we also practice on it a lot to get used to the course so I think we know the ins and outs of it,” said Dooley, “We’ve got a good feel for it, it’s our home course, so it’s a big advantage for us.”
“Definitely being the home course in Louisville, you always want to do your best there and represent for the city of Louisville,” said Byrne of the Greater Louisville Classic, which will be the first meet where scoring for the national meet begins. The top two scoring teams from each region will receive an automatic bid to nationals at the end of season.
The Cards know that receiving one of those automatic bids will require top performances from individuals, as well as the team and sophomore Mattias Wolter, along with the rest of the squad focusing on improvement every year.
“If you’re 50th one year, maybe you want to be 40th or 30th next year and you also want to be a part of the team and try and score points and just do your best every time,” said Wolter. Wolter finished fourth at the Mid-America Opener with a time of 18:54 and 25th at the Navy Invitational with a time of 25:08.18.
Byrne summarizes the team mentality best. “At the end of the race when you’re hurting, you want to push yourself for your own personal benefit but more importantly for your team,” he said.
The men’s and women’s cross country teams will compete this Saturday, Oct. 1, in the Greater Louisville Classic.
Photos: Cody Hibbard/The Louisville Cardinal