The women’s cross-country team raced away with another impressive performance last Saturday at the Penn State-Behrend Invitational, placing second out of 15 extremely competitive teams.

With 53 points, the Yellowjackets edged past Mount Union College with 57 points and Carnegie Mellon University with 89 points, but fell behind Case Western Reserve University, which scored 39 points. This race provided a good preview of future meets against Carnegie Mellon and Case Western, who both compete with the Yellowjackets in the same conference.

“I figured they would run faster because this was the second race and it was bigger,” Head Coach Barbara Hartwig said. “The team got out well, worked hard during the second mile and gained good position. They were excited, competed hard and didn’t give up. Everyone felt good about how they raced.”

A cross-country runner’s dream course, the five-kilometer race proved to be an excellent match for the Yellowjackets. It featured many long, gradual uphills and downhills, along with some flat stretches – fairly easy on the runners’ bodies and provided for a quick recovery.

Sophomore Kellie Hasselwander guided the team, finishing fourth in the 125-runner race with a time of 19:32.

“Kellie had a great race,” Hartwig said. “She had very even splits and stuck her neck out in the first pack.”

Teammates junior Becky Hayes finished ninth with a time of 19:53, senior Jessica VanBinsbergen placed tenth with 19:59, senior Kate Pohlman closed in at 11th with 20:01 and junior Stacy Allen helped herself to 19th at 20:27.

All four worked together to close the gap between the first and fifth runners, which helped secure the team’s success. The gap between the first and fifth runners was only 55 seconds, and between first and seventh was only 1:24.

“Something interesting about this group is that the order mixes around,” Hartwig said. “It’s great because there’s somebody to back you up if you’re not having a good day.”

This race was particularly impressive because the Yellowjackets’ sixth and seventh runners, sophomore Stephanie Holowacz who finished 24th with a time of 20:38, and sophomore Louisa Slocum placed 31st with 20:56, were competing for the first time this season due to nagging tendonitis last week.

All of the women’s 15 competitors finished in the top 90, a very notable feat.

“Everyone left feeling good about themselves and the season,” Hartwig said.

This week, Hartwig is toning down the practices, allowing the girls a few days to recoup. Because there is no meet this coming weekend, the team will pick it up for the rest of the week.

Philbrick can be reached at ephilbrick

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