The women’s cross-country team picked right up where they left off last season with an excellent performance. The women dominated the three-team meet on Saturday afternoon, taking four of the top five individual finishing slots.
The team itself totaled just 24 points, far ahead of Rochester Institute of Technology and SUNY Fredonia, with 44 and 56 points, respectively.
Senior Kate Pohlman led the team, finishing second overall with a time of 20:30 in the five-kilometer race, followed closely by sophomore Kellie Hasselwander (20:37), junior Becky Hayes (20:38) and senior Jessica Van Binsbergen (20:40). Sophomore Stacy Allen secured the team’s victory with a 10th place finish and a time of 21:16, also providing a gap between the first and fifth runners of only 46 seconds, something key to succeeding in cross country.
Conditions were perfect as the Yellowjackets lined up at the start in Fredonia last Saturday. It was tepid outside with no wind, and the course was fairly flat – perfect for the first race of the year.
“Our goals were to work together in a pack and establish ourselves in a good scoring position, and, obviously, we wanted to win, and we did [everything],” Head Coach Barbara Hartwig said.
The team is now looking to this weekend’s meet, the Penn State Behrend Invitational near Erie, Pa. This will be a much larger race with heavier competition.
“Because [last Saturday’s meet] was a small meet, once we were established in good scoring positions, it was like running in a practice, and our second and third mile splits dropped,” Hartwig said.
The tough competition at the invitational this Saturday should keep the team running hard throughout the race.
In fact, many of the teams that the Yellowjackets will face at this coming invitational are the ones that they will be seeing at championship races – something that Hartwig and the rest of the team are already setting their eyes on. The impressive display this past Saturday showed just how well the team could do this season.
“I am very pleased at the work ethic,” Hartwig said. “The girls worked over the summer, something that’s key to cross-country, and they are very well prepared. Almost everyone is back from last year, and we have a lot of depth. The combination of talent, motivation and desire to do well and depth will help us and we’re anxious to see the fruits of our work.”
Freshmen, including Katie Meford, Lauren Jewett and Rebecca Murphy, have proven good backup to the top runners and have eased into the team well.
“We don’t have to rely on them for scores, so they can get used to being on the team and being a freshman here at UR,” Hartwig said. “They are very enthusiastic and work hard.”
Finally, the presence of veteran runners is really going to help lead the Yellowjackets to more victories this year.
“The older runners have been through the program, know how I work things, know how to balance sports and academics and transfer their knowledge to the younger ones,” Hartwig said.
This weekend’s invitational will prove as a good judge of the team’s strength.
“People always know we have a good team,” Hartwig said. “We want to take the next step and be even more competitive.”
Philbrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.