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Maryam Hassan / Staff Photographer

Cross country will send runners to New Jersey as well as the Bronx this weekend.

Following a short respite from competition this past weekend, cross country will diverge once again for two different races on Friday. The top 12 on both the women’s and men’s sides will compete at the Princeton Invitational, while another delegation of athletes will run at the Metropolitan Championships.

The meets follow the Wisconsin Nuttycombe Invitational and the Paul Short Run, at which the women achieved an 11th-place finish and the men took sixth place, respectively.

On the women’s side, these results corresponded to a four spot jump to No. 1 in the regional rankings by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Coaches’ Poll and an even more impressive jump to No. 17, nationally.

Conversely, the men’s team moved down one spot to No. 5 regionally.

This ranking is indicative of a more general descending line in regional rankings as of late for the men’s cross country team and did not come as a surprise to head coach Dan Ireland.

“We haven't been at full strength at all this year,” Ireland said of the men’s team.

With 2017 Heps as a reference, Columbia men’s cross country returned five of its top eight this fall. Unfortunately, sickness has plagued the majority of the returning top seven runners, and only two—senior Tyler Italiano and sophomore Dominic Dyer—have been able to compete thus far this season.

According to Ireland, the men are now healthy and set to compete this Friday. With the team all together for the first time, men’s cross country looks to gauge its standing against Ivy League competitor Princeton.

“Can we beat Princeton on their own course? It's going to be really tough,” Ireland said. “They've been the favorite this season. They've been running really well. We haven't even had our full team yet.”

Ireland noted that, with what resembles a fuller top seven, he wouldn't count the Lions out at the invitational, but they are definitely entering the meet as the favorite underdog. Men’s cross country has only a few more weeks to turn that status on its head.

“We've got work to do. For us to get back to where we were last year—2nd at Heps—we're going to have to have a really good month of October training,” Ireland said. “I still think we can.”

Last year at Princeton, men’s cross country took 18th place out of 21 spots, while women’s cross country achieved a first-place crown.

While the women will push for a second consecutive title at Princeton, Ireland noted that the purpose of this meet is not necessarily a first-place finish. Instead, the desired end is familiarity with the course as the team approaches the Ivy League Heptagonal Championships hosted at Princeton on Oct. 27.

Additional members of the cross country team will race at the Metropolitan Championships at Van Cortlandt Park. This race is traditionally less competitive than Princeton and provides an opportunity for those who will likely not race in the upcoming weeks.

The Princeton Invitational is set to begin at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 12 while the Metropolitan Championships are set to begin at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 12 at Van Cortlandt Park. | @CUSpecSports

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