October 27, 2021

McCann Sets the Pace, Taking 8th in Girls’ Race As PDS Cross Country Makes Strides at County Meet

MAKING STRIDES: Princeton Day School girls’ cross country sophomore star Emily McCann heads to the finish line at the Mercer County championship meet last Friday at Washington Crossing Park. McCann placed eighth individually in the girls’ varsity race, clocking a time of 19:42.36 over the 5,000-meter course. PDS finished 11th in the girls’ team standings. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After going undefeated last fall in her freshman season for the Princeton Day School girls’ cross country team in a campaign abbreviated by COVID-19 concerns, Emily McCann has enjoyed testing herself against tougher competition in 2021.

“Last year, there were not many big races, the first few invitationals this year got me in the mindset,” said McCann.

“This is insane. It was overwhelming how many people there were. I am used to it now.”

Utilizing that experience, McCann placed eighth in the girls’ varsity race at the Mercer County Championships last Friday at Washington Crossing Park. McCann clocked a time of 19:42.36 over the 5,000-meter course, helping PDS finish 11th in the girls’ team standings.

“I knew the first mile was going to be really fast,” said McCann reflecting on the race.

“It is all downhill and the field is really good. I was ready to have it be a sub 6-minute mile. I didn’t want there to be much strain but that is exactly what I did. The first mile felt really good. I think I was 10th there. I stayed with them the whole time.”

McCann was pleased with the final result. “This is only my third time running under 20, so that is definitely very good to progress forward,” said McCann.

In making progress, McCann has upped the intensity of her workouts.

“My teammates have definitely pushed me a lot more in workouts and I have been doing workouts a lot harder,” said McCann.

“I have stayed the same in mileage, about 30 miles a week. We have been doing a lot of interval work and a lot of hill work which is definitely helpful for this course. That helped me a lot.”

McCann’s work on the ice has also helped her conditioning as she juggles ice hockey with running.

“We practice three times a week and then we play on the weekends,” said McCann, who plays for the Princeton Tiger Lilies club program and the PDS girls’ hockey squad.

“I have cross country to 5:30 sometimes and then I have hockey later in the night. Hockey is more speed with fast, little bursts and then this a lot of cardio. They help each other.”

PDS head coach John Woodside is impressed by McCann’s development this fall as she has built on her big freshman season.

“Emily ran well; she feels like she has more in there but that was her best time,” said Woodside.

“Last year she was learning every time she ran. She really didn’t know what she was doing, she was figuring it out. This year she came in with a plan and she trained much harder. Her mileage is higher but it is not even that, the workouts are better. She knows what she is doing now. She listens, she does what she is supposed to do to get ready. She is really ready for some big things.”

In Woodside’s view, his girls’ squad is poised to do some big things. In the county meet, sophomore Harleen Sandu took 36th in 21:29.22 while junior Maddie Weinstein placed 68th in 23:24.86.

“If I go back to last year, we were undefeated but it was a weird year because we didn’t have championships,” said Woodside.

“Everybody didn’t field a team and a lot of kids didn’t run. The girls were tremendous last year. This year, weirdly enough, they are even a little bit better but the competition is better too They did well. I had many best times and season bests today.”

As for the Panther boys, they used the county meet as a springboard for the upcoming state Prep B and Non-Public group meets. Sophomore Arun Patel led the way for the PDS boys’ last Friday, taking 52nd in 18:17.30 with senior Will Sun coming in 68th in 18:37.49.

“The kids stepped up, most of them ran their best times,” said Woodside.

“Our top 5 average was 20 seconds better than it had been all year and for the first time they were at 19:00. We will keep training we are going to be ready in two weeks.”

Patel and Sun have been stepping up all fall for the Panthers. “Arun has emerged as our top runner and he has really pushed himself hard,” said Woodside.

“He trained over the summer and he got the guys out training together. That is an important step. Will is a senior and he has been with me for four years. He has really come a long, long way. He was a 22 minute runner when he first started; he was 18:37 today so that is very impressive. I think he has more in there. The guys want to improve as we go towards the championships and this was a step in that direction.”

Looking ahead to the state meets, Woodside believes all of his runners are primed to excel.

“Everybody is really energized,” asserted a smiling Woodside. “We are ready to go, we are so fired up for the championships.

McCann, for her part, is fired up to keep getting better. “I just want to thank my coaches,” said McCann. “They see my potential and then they push me really hard.”