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The Hawks have won their first meet the last two seasons.

The Crimson Hawks cross country teams flew by the competition Saturday at California University of Pennsylvania’s (Cal-U) season-opening invitational.

The men’s team, which was projected to finish the season in fifth place by the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Coaches’ Poll, took first place ahead of Slippery Rock University (SRU) and Cal-U. With the combined effort of five runners finishing top 10 and seven in the top 14, they were able to beat SRU by one point.

Joel Beckwith (freshman, environmental engineering) stole the show by outrunning Noah Bernarding of Cal-U by 0.5 seconds for first place overall in his college debut.

“He came out of nowhere,” Marco Cardone (sophomore, exercise science) said. “Joel Beckwith is a freshman and won the entire thing.”

Other top finishers for the men include Evan Weaver (senior, natural science/pre-physical therapy) in fourth, Daniel Gibney (freshman, safety, health and environmental applied sciences) in eighth, Marco Cardone in ninth and Adam Lechleitner (freshman, nursing) in 10th.

This was the second year in a row the men took home the gold in their first invitational of the season.

“I’m glad we got the win,” Cardone said. “When you start off well like that, you’re excited to see what comes in the next race.”

Despite crossing the finish line in front of 26 other runners, Cardone considers the team and its goals ahead of his own.

“I focus on the goal of doing well as a team and doing the best I can myself,” Cardone said. “I’m not really thinking how fast I’m going to run. I’m just worrying about my pace, working together as a team and helping them out during the race.”

The women’s team, which was projected to finish the season in seventh place by the PSAC Coaches’ Poll, took second place behind SRU which had a perfect score of 15.

Paige Wess (junior, nursing) was one of seven IUP runners to finish in the top 20. She placed seventh; Tori James (sophomore, nursing) placed ninth; Hannah Miller (freshman, athletic training) placed 12th; Brianna Herr (graduate, nutrition and dietetics) placed 13th; and Emma Alexy (junior, natural science/pre-physical therapy), Emily Schrag (freshman, secondary mathematics education) and Mia Elmore (freshman, nursing) placed 15th, 17th and 20th respectively.

“The freshman coming in made a big impact and aided us a lot,” James said. “Emily [Schrag] and Hannah [Miller] did a really good job.”

The teams were also facing a new course in different weather conditions than 2020’s Cal-U invitational. Their 2020 season was delayed until the spring due to COVID-19.

“It was definitely hotter outside with fewer teams this year,” Cardone said. “They added about a quarter mile to the course this year, too.”

Starting the season earlier in the year also gave the teams less time to prepare.

“The team has had fewer workouts than we did before,” Cardone said. “Last year we did it in the wintertime, and we had time trials to see what to expect, but this year we jumped right into it like a normal season should be.”

The Crimson Hawks will next race against the Robert Morris University Colonials Sept. 17 in Clinton, Pa.

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