Younger runners step up to give veterans rest, gain race experience
Chris Fox has a plan for the injured runners rehabbing after last season’s breakout year.
This season, the Syracuse head coach said he will hold out his top seven runners in hopes of shaking the rust off Forrest Misenti and Griff Graves, who both missed time during their Syracuse careers.
Fox said he plans on introducing those two injured runners in “low-key” races to get them ready for the bigger ones that will come later this season.
“It’s almost like a scrimmage for football,” Fox said.
Graves hasn’t competed since 2009, and Misenti has not raced since February 2011. They both had seasons cut short by injuries, and they both returned in the first race of the season at Colgate.
Graves was the top SU finisher and placed second overall with a time of 20:06 in the 6,400-meter race, and Misenti placed fifth with a time of 20:17.
Graves was pleased but humble about his performance.
“Anytime you can come back into your first race and compete on the level you want to compete, it’s always good,” he said.
Misenti was more impressed.
“Seeing him finish second place and go after the win the last half mile was really impressive,” Misenti said.
On Sept. 8 at the Dartmouth Invitational, the No. 12 men’s team snagged another first-place finish. The Orange dominated the race with eight runners finishing in the Top 10.
Working Misenti and Graves back into running shape comes at a price, though. As the two mount their respective returns, few true freshmen have participated in the Harry Lang Invitational or Dartmouth Invitational.
Instead, many runners have been left back to practice at Manley Field House. Fox said acclimating his youngest runners to college races before they compete is crucial early in the season.
Brianna Nerud is transitioning from high school to college meets this season. The freshman enjoyed a record-setting career at North Shore High School (N.Y.), but was held out of both meets thus far.
Running at Syracuse is a different — and much higher — level of competition. And Nerud said it requires a higher level of preparation.
“Training with a big team is different,” Nerud said. “The workouts are harder because of higher intensity some days, and longer.”
To ease that acclimation period, Fox has often redshirted first-year runners. He held out nine freshmen from competition in 2011, and he said he plans on repeating that strategy this year.
Fox said that habit squeezes the most eligibility out of his runners, too.
“If you run them, you can’t redshirt them,” Fox said.
It also opens up spots for Fox to integrate his top performers, like Misenti and Graves, back into the lineup.
Senior Sarah Pagano ran at Dartmouth after Fox held her out of the Harry Lang Invitational. She was the top finisher for SU and finished seventh with a time of 21:38.70.
Though the Orange has not run all its top runners, the team has been successful through two meets. Fox can slowly bring runners back from injury now before the bigger meets down the road.
“The real test will be over the next few weeks,” Graves said. “We’ll see how we stack up as the competition gets better.”
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