Dave Mock, Frances Koons rebound for successful close to frosh XC campaigns...

The two former PA state cross country champions are running well at top programs after set-backs during the cross country season. Dave Mock and Frances Koons were in the hunt at the USATF Junior Cross Country Championships Feb 12-13, 2005, coming up just short. But both are pleased with their inaugural seasons, especially in light of physical setbacks that hurt their ability to perform when they wanted it most.

Mock, the AA state XC champion in 2004, and Koons, the AAA state XC champion the same year, are freshmen at top institutions - and racing for programs that have been, and are considered among the elite of college cross country and track & field.

Mock chose the College of William & Mary in Virginia. Koons had her sights set on Villanova. And both entered their freshman cross country campaigns hopeful of contributing to their teams on a national level in their first seasons. The plan didn\'t quite work out that way.

Mock upped his high school mileage from the 50\'s to the 70\'s. Fatigue would be expected. And as sometimes happens when the body is adjusting to new levels of training, it\'s more open to infection. Mock got sick before the Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) meet. He didn\'t race well. \"My running was terrible in October.\" The timing couldn\'t have been worse. There were a few guys who were a lock for the Regionals/NCAA\'s squads, but Mock was in a group competing for the last few spots. He didn\'t make the cut. But he held out hope, and started getting better and training again. He persistence would pay off.

Mock was on the team that William & Mary sent to IC4A\'s at Van Cortlandt Park in New York. Run the Saturday before NCAA\'s, it\'s a consolation prize of sorts, and provides a final opportunity to show the coach what you have. Mock didn\'t disappoint. He says the best part of the race was coming through the 5k mark in 15:53 - having run the same course as the Foot Locker regionals he had run in 2003 - just a second slower than he had run the same distance in high school. Only this time, he still had 3k to go. He loved Cemetary Hill, and used it to springboard to a 17th place in 25:27. William & Mary would finish 2nd to LaSalle.

Koons didn\'t make quite the jump in mileage that Mock did. She had never really exceeded 35 miles in high school, so her coach, Gina Procaccio, was conservative in building slowly toward a high of 42. Koons felt as fit and as strong as ever. Her first invitational (Paul Short @ Lehigh) was generally a good experience. But over the final 1000 meters of the 6000m race, her legs started to feel heavy, she grew white and was light-headed. She brushed it off, and resumed training, and hoped for better things at Pre-Nationals. The result was the same, only the negative effects began much earlier in the race, just after the mile.

This time her coach wasn\'t waiting to see if there was an improvement on its own. She had Koons see a doctor. A blood test revealed low levels of ferratin and hemoglobin. While her ferratin was at the low end of normal, it was way below the levels required by a distance runner. She immediately began to take liquid ferrous sulfate, and backed off training for a few weeks. She credits the support of coaches and teammates with keeping her spirits up while she had to watch them train for the big races.

She worked toward a goal of getting to NCAA\'s. Not on the Mid-Atlantic Regional squad that finished 2nd for an automatic bid, Koons did join the Nationals squad, finishing 6th on the team, and 177th overall. Not her standard, but she was on the road to recovery, with her ferratin levels returning to higher levels.

Mock\'s IC4A performance had impressed his coach, Alex Gibby, who asked him if he was interested in racing at the USATF Junior Nationals in February. Mock didn\'t want to remember his first season without a chance at more success. So after two weeks of active rest, he started training - setting up a program geared for track, but modified as they approached the 8k cross country race. His training started to improve, and an 8:34 indoor 3k, in his first indoor race ever, gave him the feeling he had a shot at the team.

Koons was happy to have another opportunity. A team-oriented runner, she said she wanted to \"represent Villanova to the best of my ability.\" Her plan was to go out with the leaders, and to see how the race developed.

\"The race went out with a big pack at the front. I believe there were still eight or nine of us together at 4k. Lyndsay Scherf led a little but didn't get too far away from the pack. It was pretty muddy and the turns were sharp, so I think we were all being pretty cautious. I felt confident before and during the race because I didn't put unnecessary pressure on myself, and I had already run some decent races with a 1000m at the start of the season in 2:51 and a 3k the weekend before in a PR of 9:41. I was just hanging on in around 7th place nearing 5k I believe, but then this feeling in my legs set in and I just couldn't seem to get moving. I had a pretty rough finish.\"

That finish, in 13th, would please most. But while a little disappointed, Koons was glad for the experience. \"We\'re sending a killer team to France.\"

Mock\'s renewed confidence, and having the additional support of fellow frosh, and NCAA XC all-American Christo Landry in the race, he was looking forward to the opportunity. The course; which consisted of a 2000m loop; gave runners an opportunity to assess their position and implement whatever strategy the race dictated. Mock said he felt good and ran with the lead pack for the first 4k. Then, he said, \"a group of five or six guys picked it up. Then it was six-seven and myself in a group. I tried to hang on, but couldn\'t stay with them on the third loop. I tried to make it up, but the mud takes its toll when you\'re running alone.\"

Mock would finish 8th, just behind a former Foot Locker finalist. \"I can look at the results and see a FL finalist, and know that I ran with him. It\'s great to see that.\"

Koons is running indoors, and looking forward to the opportunities that the outdoor season presents. Mock is red-shirting indoor, and gearing his training for a great season of track.

Both are very pleased with their choice of colleges. And both ended their first seasons on a high note.

\"I was drawn by the academics,\" Mock says. \"Then I saw they had a great program, really liked the coach and the guys, and that was it.\"

Koons says she had high expectations about the storied Villanova program. She hasn\'t been disappointed. \"I'll never forget one day, running an extremely slow 1000m repeat on the track, and it was the Olympic Gala weekend. Carre Tollefson was here to be honored and she came to practice. I was a little bummed at the time, to not be running fast with the rest of my team, and then here is Carre, the sole U.S. representative in the 1500m in Athens last year, cheering me on. It blew me away. I thought to myself, "Geez, what 18 year old girl gets this kind of treatment?" But that is what Villanova is all about, these people are amazing.\"

Both programs got class people, as well.