On the Road with the Pioneers: the men's cross country team.
Year by year, the Point Park men’s and women’s cross country teams are making more of a name for themselves in the Western Pennsylvania running community and beyond.
With a growing reputation of faster times, the overall growth of the school and a growing network of alumni who have had a great experience, the Pioneers are reaping the benefits.
“Point Park never really had too much of a reputation as a running school,” said seventh-year head coach Jim Irvin. “But now, people are becoming more aware of us in the local running community.
“The No. 1 factor for us is the school itself, which is key. Recruits can tell that there are great things happening on this campus. Second, there is awareness that our running times are better across the board. And the third thing is that on an individual basis, they know their times will be significantly faster by the end of their four years.”
In the Forefront
The Pioneers have experienced some of their best seasons in recent years. During that time, Point Park has had some of the fastest individual runners to ever compete for the school. As a team, they have enjoyed perhaps the best depth of quality runners that the program has ever seen.
As recently as the 2010 season, Andrew Rowland and Justine Michael set individual school records for the men’s and women’s teams, respectively.
From a team perspective, the men’s squad has three runners capable of completing an 8K under 28 minutes in Rowland, Reuben Rono and Dylan Grunn. Four others have turned in times under 30 minutes in the past two years – Chris Kennedy, Jon Rohlf, Ian McIntosh and Conor Mulvaney – which represents the best depth in team history.
The women’s team has had some strong, veteran leaders the past few years and has also experienced an influx of freshmen and sophomores who have infused the program with talent. The likes of Lindsay Dill, Carina Jollie and Sarah Austin have provided the veteran leadership in recent years, while Keri Rouse, Katie Johnston and Christina Wisniewski have been top underclassmen in 2011.
A rash of injuries to both teams in 2011 limited top runners like Rowland, Rono, Dill and talented women’s newcomer Ashley Goodsell. But despite setbacks, the teams are still strong with others stepping up to fill the void.
“Cross country is a sport in which you compete as a team but also individually,” said Irvin. “Goals are set individually, and runners train for that all year, especially during the season. If everyone makes their goals, we should do well at the conference meet at the end of the year.”
Along the way, during the hours and hours of training, the physical conditioning is not the only thing achieved. Life-long lessons about working toward a goal that is far off in the future are instilled.
“The most important lesson is that you set a goal in the future, and it is an annual goal,” said Irvin. “You put in hundreds of hours, plan for the goal, set bench marks and check points along the way, and you get one shot to achieve that goal at the
end of the season. It is a great learning experience to train so long for a race that ends up being 20 minutes or so.
“It is not about instant gratification, you have to be patient and be dedicated. The main question is, what are you doing today to improve yourself toward that goal? That type of mindset is one that will help them their whole life.”
Text by Kevin Taylor
Photo by Chelsey Engel
The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Poitn Park University.