Benko, Warshauer lead Leopards to success at Leopard Invitational

Benko%2C+Warshauer+lead+Leopards+to+success+at+Leopard+Invitational

Katelyn Arnold

Junior co-captain Steph Benko strides toward the finish line at the Lafayette Invitational. This is her first time competing in the race.

Photo Courtesy of Lafayette Athletic Communications

The junior co-captain places second at the annual Leopard Invitational

The Lafayette cross country team has a history of stepping up at home competitions. This year’s Leopard Invitational was no different.

Every year, the Leopard Invitational occurs towards the end of the fall cross country season as preparation for the league tournament. The hilly course at Metzgar Fields challenges runners and provides a strong indication of how the team, as well as individual runners, will perform in the post-season.

Junior co-captian Stephanie Benko explains that the race, “is a good indication for us…to see where we are standing and to see where we are going into the championship meet.”

In the past four years of the Leopard Invitational, the women’s team has had a seventh-place finisher, two third-place finishers, and a first-place finisher. The men’s team has had a runner finish eleventh once, sixth twice, and fourth once. The home competition gives the runners not only the advantage of a familiarity with the course, but also a larger fan base.

“It really does help when you have fans and teammates there cheering you on,” Benko said.

This year’s attendees included American, as well as Seton Hall, DeSales, Cortland State, and Oswego State. Seton Hall’s Christiana Rutkowski defeated Benko in the women’s race by just over six seconds. On the men’s side, three competitors from Cortland State finished in first, second, and third place while senior Andrew Warshauer finished just 19 seconds behind the fourth-place finisher, American’s Dominic Genuario.

Representing Lafayette, Benko finished second in the women’s race, and Warshauer earned fifth place in the men’s pack. As a team, the Lafayette women finished just second behind American by about two seconds in Division I team results (exempting Cortland State, DeSales and Oswego State). The Lafayette men finished third among the competing Division I teams.

It was Benko’s first time running in the Leopard Invitational, as injuries kept her from competing as both a freshman and a sophomore. She has performed well this fall, with one third place finish, two second place finishes, and a first place win in previous races.

With the Leopard Invitational under her belt as preparation for the tournament, the captain has her eyes set on post-season competition at both the Patriot League Tournament and the regional tournament.

“The Leopard Invitational was a good indication of where I am and I know what I have to do at the Patriot League [tournament],” she said.