By Collin Bolebruch & Liam Sample
It has been an exciting season for the Plattsburgh Cardinals cross country teams. Along with its sufficient start to the season, the team welcomed a new head coach and a brand-new indoor track and gymnasium facility as a part of the Field House complex.
This track will be utilized primarily for the upcoming track and field season, but the cross country team will be using it for practices.
Part-way through last season, Jordan Naylon joined the track and field team. This season, she takes the reins as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s cross country teams.
“I’m really enjoying her coaching style. She has an individual-based coaching approach where going into each meet, she’ll create a specific, to the individual, plan for what we’re going to do during the race and debrief us afterward,” sophomore Noah Bonsteel said. “Her goals for us as a team are pretty high.”
Both teams have placed favorably in the season’s five meets so far. Cross country hosted its own meet Sept. 3 to begin the season, the 40th annual Cardinal Classic, involving five complete men’s teams and three complete women’s teams.
For the women’s squad, graduate student Aislyn McDonough came in eighth place of 37 runners and ran her 5k in 21:16. Overall, the team finished in third place out of the three teams, just behind the Clarkson Golden Knights.
The men’s team competed against a larger field of competition that featured 64 runners. Bonesteel and junior Micheal Brockway finished within four seconds of each other for fourth and fifth respectively in the 6k. The squad placed second behind the St. Lawrence Saints.
“[The season] it’s been more of a learning experience, not just for me as my first time being a head coach, but also for the athletes,” Naylon said. “They’ve been taking really good steps forward mostly because I’m believing in them that they can do that sort of thing, but also, taking that and believing in themselves.”
The teams then traveled to Oswego Sept. 10 for the Oswego State Invitational. The men ran a 5k and finished among the top of the leaderboard. In a field of over 90 runners, Plattsburgh had three top-10 finishers. Bonesteel finished 0.2 seconds outside of fourth place for the best time among the Cardinals. First-year Ethan Kahl placed 10th, hiS firSt collegiate career finish inside the top-10.
Overall, the team finished second among seven complete teams, many of which were SUNYAC rivals.
“I think second place is a really, really good spot for us as a team because we’re so young. So we were really happy about that,” Bonesteel said.
The women also ran a 5k. The team was led by another epic performance from McDonough, who finished sixth out of over 40 runners. The Cardinals finished last among the four teams that attended.
The teams’ next meet came across state lines in Middlebury, Vermont for the Aldrich Invitational. The Middlebury Panthers’ men and women’s teams are both regionally ranked. The women ran a 4k and were consistent across the board, with all five of its runners finishing within 15 places of each other. Of the five competing teams, Plattsburgh finished third.
“We kind of got into a rut at the beginning of the season, where we were downplaying [ourselves] and we were talking about like how difficult it is, how hard it is and how much we don’t want to do it. Naylon kind of caught our drift and was like, ‘all right we have to turn it around,’” McDonough said. “We’ve been focusing on having a better outlook and it really has been paying off a lot.”
The men’s individual placements varied more than the women’s yet also finished third overall. The team was led by Bonesteel and Brockway finishing within two seconds of each other for eighth and ninth place, respectively.
One week after the Aldrich Invitational, the team competed in its most recent meet Sept. 24 in St. Lawrence at the Ronald C. Hoffmann Invitational. This course is the same one used for upcoming Mideast Region Championships, which the Cardinals will also be competing in.
The Ronald C. Hoffman Invitational had the largest field of competition this season for both the men and women, bringing a challenge for both teams. The women were faced with its first 6k of the year.
“I think there were a lot of nerves just because we had been getting used to 5k’s and that’s a little more comfortable than a 6k,” McDonough said. “I think it was really more overcoming nerves than physical pain.”
Although McDonough said Naylon reassured the team and reminded them of the work they have put in this season, she also said she struggled with being engaged.
McDonough went on to finish 24th of 77 runners, she said she “didn’t hit the time that I wanted to” and was “a little bit slower at the meet than last year.” She attributes this to the absence of alumna Rebecca Block, who ran for the team last year and was someone McDonough would tag along with. Without her this year, she feels she is still learning how to stay mentally engaged.
Nonetheless, the women finished fifth of the seven complete teams at the meet, beating out Clarkson, who the team previously finished below at the Cardinal Classic. Plattsburgh’s top seven runners completed the race within almost five minutes of each other. On top of this, Naylon mentioned that senior Natalia Castro improved by four minutes from last season.
The men were tasked with an 8k. Among the tough competition, Bonesteel still performed strongly, coming in tenth in a field of over 100 runners. Kahl finished second on the team, just five seconds ahead of Brockway. The men also earned fifth overall of eight complete teams.
“[This meet] was our first 8k and 6k, which was a big jump for a lot of [the team], especially our first-years,” Naylon said. “I was pleasantly surprised with how they handled it, especially their first competition and going out that hard, that was actually really surprising.”
The Cardinals participate in its last regular season meet of the year in Waterford, Connecticut in the Connecticut College Invitational hosted by the Connecticut Camels Oct. 15.
McDonough, who said it is her third time going to the Connecticut College Invitational, emphasized how it is always a fun meet. She said how the team will be able to see the other teams in the region and how it matches up to the competition.
“Connecticut will definitely be a big meet for us to really hammer down on our mindset and focus on where we need to be placement wise,” McDonough said.
Naylon said the course for the upcoming meet is flat and can remember going to that meet when she was a student. Naylon, a 2013 graduate of Cortland and an indoor track All American, was an assistant coach for Cortland for six seasons before coming to Plattsburgh. McDonough provided high praise for Naylon, saying “she is the most dedicated coach I have ever had.”
Naylon will be tested, as following Connecticut, the teams will enter the competition phase of the season. This part of the season begins with the SUNYAC Championships, hosted by Oswego, Oct. 29 and could later include the Mideast Region Championship in St. Lawrence Nov. 12.