Savannah Dennison Threatens Meet Record At RVA Relays

In what was supposed to be the Mentor Cardinals off weekend for the varsity crew turned out to be one of the most fun cross country experiences that the Lake County-based group has had in a long time, according to head coach Bill Dennison. 

Dennison's squad traveled to Mechanicsville, Virginia this past weekend to compete at one of the most unique meets around, the RVA Relays

"The concept of the meet seemed like a lot of fun and different," said Dennison. 

The concept he's referring to is the relay format for XC, which are competitive opportunities not readily available. The RVA Relays pits teams of five against each other with each leg consisting of a 2500m run on the cross country field. Additionally, this meet is contested at night and under the lights. 

"This meet fit perfectly into our training cycle plus the idea of of going harder for a shorter distance intrigued us," said Dennison. 

Our MileSplit Virginia editor Nolan Jez was on the ground for coverage and helped to provide some further context on the meet's make-up and how he feels it sets up well for battles between traditional milers vs. 5 kilometer runners.

"The meet is one where all distance runners get a chance to toe the line and race," said Jez. 

"For some it's a short race and for others it's longer than their traditional events. It's a race where the competitors can show off their speed. It's fun, it's fast and it has a great team atmosphere," Jez explained. 

The Mentor team took full advantage of the electric atmosphere that Jez references. The men's roster wound up fourth out of seventy teams and the Lady Cardinals also placed fourth amongst a forty-four team field. 

Individually, Savannah Dennison put forth one of her career best efforts, producing the fastest women's split of the day at 8:10, which narrowly trailed the meet's all-time record held by Mary Caroline Heinen. Heinen recorded an 8:08 mark at the meet's 2018 edition. 

"What makes Dennison's split so impressive is the fact that she did it solo." Jez said.

"Not solo like a regular meet, but rather solo in that she was out there chasing athletes in the dark with no help in trying to make up a big deficit," Jez concluded. 

We reached out to Dennison for more details on her run and she provided us with a comprehensive race report.

"I was very excited to go down to compete in the RVA Relays on Saturday. It was a cool and new experience and the positive atmosphere at the race was insane. Running a relay in track is always super thrilling, but bringing that aspect to cross country was so amazing. It was a process to figure out when to warm up and what to do to prepare, since my teammates and I have not experienced anything like this before."

"It was so fun to be able to cheer my teammates on in the relay and watch them run great. Running in the race I was not curious about time at all, I was so focused on the chase. Catching every single girl I could to get my team as close to the front as possible was the plan. I didn't expect to run as fast as I ran because that wasn't the point of the race. Typically in a 5k, I'm running for myself trying to better my personal best time. In the relay, I was running for my team because I wanted us to place as best we could as a group."

"I didn't think I would run 8:10 (5:16 pace per mile) because it was cross country. The distance 2500m was very unusual and was hard to wrap my head around.  I wanted to treat it like a mile, but didn't want to die out. The way the race played out was perfect and I am so glad I chose the strategy I did."

"I think best part of my race was the end because I was in shock that I caught and passed 4th place. I was amazed at how well my teammates and I competed at this event, because we have never seen anything like it."

"Moving forward, I want to continue to get faster in workouts and races to better myself for postseason. Although running in the relay may seem like just another race, it was actually a big step forward. I wish that there were more events/races like this around our area, because it's an experience all runners should have."

-- Savannah Dennison 

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