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A Race to the Top: Yeshiva Cross Country Wins Consecutive Titles

On Tuesday nights, a student will often observe several scenes on the 185th street plaza: throngs of students heading to Glueck to begin night seder, others returning to their dorms after a long day of class, and a group of ten devoted cross country runners stretching before their hardest workout of the week. The speed workout, a combination of distance running and sprints, begins.

“There are many new faces on this year’s Cross Country team,” remarks team captain, Sam Cohen (YC ’13). “That often means having to symbolically hold people’s hands. In fact, though, the opposite was true; every runner upped his game, trained hard, listened to Coach Brendan Donoghue and me, and did as all good athletes do, which is push themselves past their limits.” Sam points to the team’s three first place wins in their three first meets, including Hudson Valley Mens Athletic Conference (HVMAC) championships for the third consecutive year. He eagerly looks ahead to future races, including the Skyline Conference championships: “The best is yet to come.”

[caption id="attachment_1370" align="alignright" width="300"] Senior Oliver Sax takes home the meet's HVMAC individual championship title.[/caption]

The team’s season officially began in summer training camp in Massachusetts, where six of YU’s returning runners endured grueling  morning and afternoon training. “In camp the hard morning and night runs were perfectly balanced by the down-time when we enjoyed playing beach volleyball and swimming with the team,” states first-year runner, Yitzy Markel (SSSB ’15). Realizing just how intense such a day sounds, he adds, “and of course, there was plenty of eating and sleeping.” After a week, the team built a strong foundation and spirit.

After training camp, the team brought training and enthusiasm back to New York. But the runners were forced to find time amid a long day of shiur and classes to run 50 miles a week for the next two months. The first race in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, just days after summer camp, gave the seven newcomers a chance to acclimate to the intense race-day atmosphere, which they all took in stride. The united team gave Yeshiva their first win of the season.

Holiday season arrived, as did more training for the crew. October, long awaited, finally came. In October the team would race on four consecutive Sundays, with its two Conference championships races in consecutive weeks. As captain Sam Cohen motivated the team before the race, “this is the most important time to push and do as coach says (better to do a little more than a little less). It doesn't matter what you have done in the past. All you can focus on is putting in these miles, improving your pace, breathing, technique, pushing hard during these workouts and not missing a workout.” Starting off the month with a bang (or gunshot), the team beat Division II and III schools in the St. Johns Fall Festival Title.

Setting its goals higher and higher, Yeshiva Cross Country destroyed the HVMAC championship as six of its runners, Sam Cohen, Yitzy Markel, Oliver Sax (YC ’14), Dov Levine (YC ’15), Natan Kolowski (SSSB ’14), and Yossi Lipton (YC ’15), finished in the top eight spots overall! Close behind came Yeshiva’s next three runners, Asher Apsen (YC ’13), Moshe Blockman (YC ’15), and Nathaniel Kukurudz (YC ’15). HVMAC individual champion Oliver Sax explained, “Throughout the race I was hovering between the thin line of maxing out and being too comfortable. However, the maneuver at the end to sprint and overtake my competitor was a move that had no boundaries… I had to let loose to claim victory.”

The top five runners scores averaged the 8k (5 mile) run in 29:33, or 5:55 minutes per mile, a speed significantly faster than last year’s average of 30:17 in the same event. The team almost needed another bus to take home its trophies and medals in addition to the team trophy, winning first and second overall individual runners (Sax, Cohen), and placing three runners on the HVMAC All-Conference team (Sax, Cohen, Levine).

Coach Brendan Donoghue brought in a much more rigorous training ethic to his first year of  coaching at Yeshiva. In an email to the team before the HVMAC championship, he wrote about what it means to represent Yeshiva as a successful athletic team. Referencing both the HVMAC and Skyline championships, he wrote, “For the next two weeks you are running for each other and representing a great college.” Coach Donoghue urged his new team “No matter what the outcome [is, you will] be able to look back and say 'I gave it my all for my teammates and myself when I ran for yeshiva cross-country.’”