Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

On October 5th West Chester University’s cross-country team powered through Paul Short, a nationally acclaimed race at Lehigh University, which sent 70 runners to the hospital and countless others to the EMTs.
The massive heat wave that swept over during fall break was a dramatic change for the Golden Rams and runners across the nation. Accustomed to racing in cool conditions, the race at Lehigh overwhelmed those who were unprepared. Temperatures, which had persisted within the low-70s weeks beforehand, suddenly skyrocketed. Thousands of runners stepped up to the starting line in nearly 90 degree weather. Sweat was shed before the gun went off, and the heat immediately took its toll on the runners. Ambulances and EMTs were at the ready, but no one expected anything quite like this. The race at Paul Short quickly turned from famous to infamous, as medics were dashing to help fallen runners.
“People were dropping like flies,” exclaimed sophomore WCU runner Mara Kelly, who repeated this phrase throughout the day with an expression of astonishment. Kelly’s phrase seemed fitting, as other WCU runners noted how men and women were passed out along the course. “During the last mile of the race, one girl collapsed in front of me,” said sophomore WCU runner Caitlin Cheruka, “there were runners all along the sidelines who were laying on the ground.” Sirens blasting and EMTs shouting for spectators to move out of the way, the race transformed itself into the appearance of a warzone. Spectators were hustling to move out of the pathway of the ambulances, and coaches and parents were grappled with anxiety as they witnessed their runners go down.
Fortunately, none of the runners from WCU required medical assistance. Nevertheless, the Golden Rams were struck by the temperature reversal. “We’ve had such nice weather in our previous races,” remarked junior Leigh-Manning Smith, a runner for the Golden Rams. “I feel like we could’ve prepared better for the heat, but at least no one from our team had to seek emergency services.”
Dehydration played the greatest role in this hectic event. WCU cross-country coach Andy Huber consistently stresses the importance of hydration to his runners, or perhaps, more often, the effects of dehydration.
Back at the WCU tent, the men and women’s teams were disappointed in their overall rankings. The men’s team, who ran 45 minutes prior to the women, didn’t receive the brunt of the heat but felt its early effects. After the WCU women raced, all proceeding races were canceled. Teams spanning from New York to Texas arrived at the Paul Short run, but many were unable to participate due to the cancellations. There were simply too many runners in need of medical services.
The Golden Rams should not be too upset, as some WCU runners attained personal bests. Junior Zach Musselman recorded a time of 26:41 in the men’s 8k, a number 3 best time in WCU history. Sophomore Amanda Eisman ran a time of 22:11, a number 2 WCU best time, while junior Leigh Manning Smith ran a time of 23:03 in the 6k, a number 4 WCU best time, and freshman Mallory Drake earned the 7th best time in WCU history, finishing in 23:43. Overall, the women placed 24th out of 45 teams, and the men placed 31st out of 46. West Chester’s cross-country team is continuing to improve.
Currently in preparation for PSAC’s, which will take place at Kutztown University on Oct.26, the WCU runners acquired mental toughness at Paul Short. Recalling what they had faced, the Golden Rams should be ready to charge through the PSAC course.
Amanda Eisman can be reached at AE789499@wcupa.edu.

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