UVA’s Lananna shares keys to success for his teams in Saturday’s NCAA cross-country championships

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Vin Lananna, a legend in college running circles, is excited about his Virginia program hosting the NCAA men’s and women’s cross country championships this weekend at Panorma Farms. The Cavaliers figure to be strong competitors in the event, which is being held in Charlottesville for the first time since 1987 when Arkansas (men) and Oregon (women) claimed the crowns.

Although UVA has hosted events at Panorama, Lananna doesn’t think there’s any kind of home-field advantage like there is in some other sports. Still, the fact that both his men’s and women’s teams have qualified for the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year is encouraging.

The meet will be broadcast live on ESPNU at 10 a.m. on Saturday, with the first race of the day set to begin at 10:20 a.m. Tickets to attend the event are available now at UVATix.com, using the “Buy Tickets” link. Tickets are $20 and include admission, parking at Fashion Square Mall and round-trip shuttle service to Panorama Farms (there is no on-site parking at the Farms, so all fans must use the shuttle service). Shuttles begin at 6:45 a.m. and run until 9:30 a.m. Returning shuttles begin at 11 a.m. and run until 1:30 p.m.

“Cross country is really kind of the ultimate track and field event because it takes 800 meters, 1500, steeplechase, 5000, 10,000, with 250-plus people on the starting line,” Lananna said. “That gun goes off and they’re all trying to get to the same place at the same time. It’s really a cool event.

“With 31 teams, the best teams in the country, the best distance runners in the country, I think that all of them probably see the Panorama Farms as an advantage for them because it really has a little bit of everything,” the UVA coach said. “It has a fast start, it has some hills, it has some good turns that you need to navigate through.”

Lananna believes that other than his runners being very familiar with the course, which UVA practices on, the biggest advantage for the Cavaliers is that they don’t have to travel.

Certain things must happen for Virginia’s teams to be successful in this championship, and Lananna knows exactly what those are.

“I think for our women, the key is that our stars shine and our front runners do their thing, which I’m perfectly confident that they will,” Lananna said. “They’re well prepared. They really have a routine down. They’ve competed against most of these teams, NC State, Northern Arizona and BYU, so they’ve seen all these teams. I think that for them, it’s a great advantage for them to go out and just do their thing, and I think if they do that, they’ll be very successful.

“On the guy’s side, I think the same might be true. There’s a little bit of an X-factor in that the men will be going from an 8k to 10k, and I think that will actually be an advantage for our team. I think that we’ve trained that way to navigate through 10,000 meters and I think that the familiarity with the routine helps.”

Lananna praised UVA’s administration for helping get the championships to Charlottesville, and also thanked Ragged Mountain Running Shop’s Mark Lorenzoni for helping organize 130 volunteers (and another 70 from the UVA athletic community) to assist on race day.

“Also, the Murray family has done a great job,” Lananna said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m not sure I’ve seen a better prepared community than what I see here today.”