The women’s cross country team endured an exciting, yet demanding two weeks.

On Oct. 7, the team received an opportunity to run in the Division III National Championship Course at Ohio Wesleyan University. Ohio Wesleyan held an open race for any team who wished to run.

“The Ohio Wesleyan course will be used for nationals in November, so we wanted to see it and be prepared if we had a national qualifier,” head coach Barbara Hartwig said.

The course was challenging with many uphills, downhills and sharp turns. Add some undesirable weather to the mix and you have one ugly course.

“It was a very challenging course to begin with, but on race day there was a steady rain,” Hartwig said. “We were the third race, so almost 600 people had raced on the course before our race. Parts of the course were very slick and mushy.”

Despite unfavorable conditions, the women placed seventh with a score of 166 points, trailing Centre College – who placed sixth – by five points.

The Yellowjackets fell short of fifth place to Wheaton College by a mere 21 points.

“Our team raced well, considering the entire field was slowed down on the muddy course due to unfavorable weather conditions,” sophomore Kellie Hasselwander said.

Hasselwander was the first to finish for the Yellowjackets, coming in 26th out of 282 runners with a time of 20:15 on the five-kilometer course.

She was followed by senior Jessica VanBinsbergen in 41st with a time of 20:35. Senior Kate Pohlman reached 51st with a time of 20:41, while sophomore Stephanie Holowacz finished at 61st with a time of 20:59. Junior Rebecca Hayes fared almost as well, placing 72nd with a time of 21:11.

This close finish by the top five provided for another sub-60-second gap time – distance of time between first and fifth runners – a strength of the Yellowjackets that seems to be keeping them competitive.

“We tried to get out faster than usual but quickly realized that the course with its rolling hills and muddy terrain was [tough],” Hasselwander said. “So, even though our times were slower, we raced well in comparison to the competition.”

SUNY Geneseo won the race with a score of 22 points. Other teams represented were Ithaca College, Grove City College and North Central College.

One impressive feat of the Yellowjackets was their victory over SUNY Brockport, a nationally ranked team, by a narrow 11 points.

“[Beating SUNY Brockport] had been one of our goals for this meet,” Hasselwander said.

This past weekend, the Yellowjackets beat SUNY Brockport again at their annual home meet, the Alumni Invitational at Genesee Valley Park. The women totaled a score of just 76 points, placing them third out of eight teams.

UR was a close third, only four points behind second place Allegheny College. SUNY Geneseo, however, ran away with the victory taking first through fifth places, giving them a perfect score of 15 points.

“Our top girls went out with the attitude that we belonged with the best of the competition,” Hasselwander said. “I know that personally Jessie [VanBinsbergen] and I were able to get out hard and continue to work together and move up throughout the race, which is something we’ve been trying to practice.”

This time it was VanBinsbergen who led the team, coming in 12th overall with a time of 23:59 for the six-kilometer race.

The rest of the women were not far behind though, as Hasselwander came in 13th with a time of 24:03. Pohlmann finished close by at 16th with a time of 24:27.

Holowacz finished right behind her at 17th with a time of 24:41, and Hayes followed seconds latter, finishing at 18th with a time of 24:43.

Once again, the Yellowjackets’ stellar gap time carried them through and helped them perform well.

“Our top five finished within 44 seconds of each other,” Hartwig said. “That was the best 1-5 split all year.”

As the championship races draw near, the Yellowjackets have their minds set on winning big. The team is working hard to prepare for the upcoming meets.

“This was our first 6K of the season, so I’d like to think that, as we move into the championship race, we’ll have gotten the shock of the extra 1,000 meters out of the way,” Hasselwander said.

“Our freshmen were racing 6K for the first time and did a nice job with the new distance,” Hartwig said. “Everyone had a much better start, with their mile times being more competitive.”

Next weekend, the Yellowjackets will participate in the “Alumni Fun Run.”

Then the championship races begin as they run in the UAA championship race at Carnegie Mellon University.

Philbrick can be reached at ephilbrick@campustime.org.



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