XC Meet at Van Cortlandt
Volume 4 Issue 1
November 6, 2023
Image Provided by Cross Country Coach
Varsity cross country boys at the Manhattan College Cross Country Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park. Left to right: North Star writer Andrew Lavoie, Charles Wu, Matteo Somma, Kevin Beltran, Frank Polizzi, Mateusz Grabowski, Chamar Borden.
Members of the Varsity Boys Cross Country team competed at one of the largest cross country meets in the nation. 42 races took place on Saturday, October 14th, 2023. Seniors Kevin Beltran and Charles Wu, Junior Matteo Somma, freshman Chamar Borden and Frank Polizzi, and eighth grader Andrew Lavoie participated in this event. It was a cold and rainy day, but they raced well. The Manhattan College Cross Country Invitational (MCXCI) was founded in 1973 by legendary Bishop Loughlin High School coach and former Manhattan College distance runner, Ed Bowes. His vision was to provide a first-class cross-country experience on the nationally acclaimed Van Cortlandt Park course for scholastic runners of all abilities.
I interviewed them and their coach Boyens:
How did it feel to race at this prestigious meet as an 8th grader?
It felt good to have this opportunity at a young age and I hope I will be able to do it again.
What do you love about running? If you could do another sport, what would it be?
I love the competitiveness of running and striving to get better. If I could do another sport, it would be basketball because I have worked very hard in practice.
Did you get a faster time at this meet? If so, by how many minutes or seconds?
I didn’t get a better time this race, but I’m still happy with how I ran because it was a hard course and was my first big cross-country meet.
If you learned anything from this racing experience, what was it?
During this race I learned how many other schools and people that we normally do not race run. I also learned how to run better on different surfaces.
What was your racing experience at the meet?
The Manhattan invitational was the hardest racing experience I ever had. Though I did not mind the rain, as I ran in worse conditions, the hills made it to where it was a difficult race to run. Being that it was my first time, I spent too much energy on the first half of the hills. Although it was only uphill for the first half of the race, I wanted that section to end much sooner, always thinking that it was about to end. Initially, I anticipated the steep downhills were going to be a much easier part of the race. However, running the down hills in the rain also proved to be a different, albeit less difficult, challenge than the up hills, as it was now finding a way to run hard without losing control. Despite the challenges this course presented, I am glad that I decided to run in the meet. My favorite part of the race experience was when there were geese in the middle of the course, and they decided not to move, leading to initial chaos.
Do you plan to run in college? If so, where?
Currently, I do not have plans to run on a team or club during college, but I have not ruled out that idea either. I will have more of an idea on whether to run during college based on my performance come the winter and spring track seasons. If I do decide to run for a college team or club, it will more likely be for winter and spring track than cross country.
Can you describe what the environment of the meet was like?
Due to the rain, the ground was much softer than I preferred. There were points in the race where I felt like I was going to slip and fall, especially since this is my first time running in the Van Cortlandt Park course. The steep up hills, as mentioned prior, were the hardest part of the course. However, I felt as if the steep up hills did not get impacted by the rain as much, unlike the downhills. The steep downhills were made harder, as the ground was wet, making it harder to keep control when running down them. Although it was cold throughout the race, it did not impact my race as much as the rain had on the downhills. The different environment of the Van Cortlandt course, compared to other courses I have ran like in Eisenhower Park and Bethpage State Park, proved to be a challenge especially in the rain, but it was nothing I could not have handled.
1. What is your goal for this cross-country season? While I am so pleased with everything, I have accomplished this cross-country season it is only right to strive for more each race. With the championship season approaching around the corner, I hope to place in the top 10 at the Section 8 Cross Country Championships at Bethpage State Park. Following this next weekend, I hope to qualify for Cross Country State Championships at the State Qualifier meet. More than anything I hope to race my own race and focus on myself, so I am able to put my body to the absolute extreme. I would also like to wish everyone else racing for VSN in Counties good luck. We will be hoping to place amongst the top teams and come home with some hardware! 2. Did you enjoy racing at this meet? Did it feel like a college race? This past weekend racing at the Manhattan Invitational was truly an amazing experience. From the professional athletes to the thousands of competitors there, it was awesome. Even though it was pouring out and a very tough course I had a lot of fun and would definitely race it again. I did not have the best performance (or the one I was hoping for) but that is what is so great about this sport, the ability to try again the next week and get better each time. The race was really well put on and it was so cool racing kids from all over the United States!
What did you place in the race?
I was able to get 9th place this year at the meet, not a great finish but I am very proud of how we did as a team this year.
Do you love running? Why did you choose this sport?
Yes, I absolutely do! I chose this sport as it is a sport where you can hold yourself accountable for what results you get. You cannot blame anyone else but yourself. Additionally running is a very liberating sport. Feeling the breeze of the wind rush through your face as you run and being able to move at high speeds is an exhilarating experience that I would never trade for anything in this world.
Do you plan to run in college? If so, where?
Yes, I do! I plan to run at one of the United States Service Academies those being the United States Military Academy (West Point) or the United States Naval Academy. Time will tell for what school I will be running for so be on the lookout!
How were the running conditions at the meet and how do you think you performed?
The Physical running conditions were tough, and separated those who were “there for to be there” VS. those who wanted it, BAD. It was pouring rain, there were strong gusts of wind, and freezing temperatures with no sun out at all. The course itself was muddy to where I slipped a few times, very narrow to where only a few people can fit shoulder-to-shoulder, and it was STEEP. 250+ feet of elevation to scale and conquer made this race the hardest course I have run through in my life. Despite this, the environment of people (especially my teammates) I was surrounded by was pleasant, people were never complaining about the conditions or racing, and this just put me in the zone to run a great race. I think when I ran that race in 15:36 I showed the school that I run cross country because I want to RACE. I have come a long way from running a 18:40 at the easiest 4k course in Nassau County last year to running a ~15:30 at arguably one of the countries’ hardest courses. I think the work I put in this last year and over the summer shined through this race, and I set myself apart from other kids in the county and on my team. All-in-all I think I performed great, and this is one of my best races yet but much more is soon to come.
Why did you choose running as your sport? What meaning does it have to you?
I chose running as a sport because I believe that running is all about discipline. You don’t need to be tall, or short, or strong or weak. You don’t need to know how to do specific skills or accessory moves in order to be successful. The only thing you need to know how to do is to; get your butt outside and 1.) run every day and 2.) Race like you’re on fire. I wanted to see how I can perform in a discipline-based sport and if I can create a mind-to-body connection in order to push past the limits of my genetics and break some barriers in terms of literally; how fast my legs can move. To me, running is a sign of commitment. If you can get out there every single day, and run, then you are proving you can push yourself and that you want to succeed in your sport and for your team. To me running also signifies not falling victim to your genetics. A slow runner who runs every day will end up faster than the person who is born fast and does not run. XC is a mental sport, and if you can commit yourself, you can become stronger than you ever were before.
How did it feel to race at this big meet as a freshman? How did you feel after your race?
It definitely felt both exciting and nerve racking for me personally. This was my first time going to a meet this big, so one could imagine how much was going through my mind while waiting for my race to start. After I finished my race, me and most of my teammates felt sluggish, since unfortunately it was raining at the time, and we had to run up these very steep, unfun hills. Overall, it was a new, challenging, and unique experience for me.
What is your favorite running season?
Personally, my favorite running season is Cross Country. I love Cross Country because it is a sport that many people tend to overlook and not realize how hard it is to commit to. It also offers many challenges, due to the rough landscapes that runners must run on, as well as the training that comes behind it. This, and many other unmentioned elements, is what I find interesting and fun about Cross Country.
Tim Boyens (VSN Cross Country Coach):
How do you think the boys did?
I thought we did very well considering the weather and the level of competition.
Do you think they are ready for the County Championships?
They are getting there. They have been running 50 miles or more a week for many weeks now. They are strong. Now we must work on speed and cerebral fortitude.
What do you love most about coaching cross country?
To me it is a great test of the kind of person you are. The most successful cross-country runners are the ones that put in the work, battle through pain and injury and have the mental toughness to go places mentally and physically they didn’t think they could.
Do you have any life lessons and tips for runners?
Just like in life, when you are concerned less about yourself and more about others/teammates there is no limit to what you can achieve as a person or a runner.
I enjoyed interviewing my talented teammates and my coach!
Upcoming news about the cross-country team: They will be competing in the County Championships on Saturday, October 28th, at Bethpage State Park. They have been working really hard, so please come out to support the team and wish them luck! Go Spartans!