The weekend of Nov. 17, senior Kellie Hasselwander traveled to St. Olaf, Minn. to participate in the women’s cross country NCAA National Championship meet as a top individual from the Atlantic Region. She made a solid showing, placing 163rd in a field of 280 runners and finishing the 6-kilometer race in 23:22.
“I was very excited and proud to see Kellie qualify for the national meet,” head coach Barbara Hartwig said. “It speaks well of her talent and work ethic.”
Hasselwander battled the course on a cold and rainy day. She noted that the course was a good one to run and it was what would be considered a typical cross country course.
“They have to make sure the trails are wide enough because there are so many runners,” she said. “There was this one part that was off limits to spectators and it was so quiet back there – all you could hear was the sound of breathing and shoes hitting the ground.”
The large group of talented runners was something Hasselwander had little experience with, which put at her at a disadvantage. Hartwig noted that such experience would have really helped her.The champion of the race came from Willamette University in Salem, Ore. She finished the race in just 20:54.
The competition was so intense that the next nine runners all came in within 20 seconds of each other.
“National level cross country competition is very strong. You can’t really understand just how tough it is unless you have been there,” Hartwig said. “Kellie was fortunate to have competed against some very outstanding teams and individuals during the regular season, but nothing prepares you for your first trip to Nationals. The race is very intense, the pace is very quick and you are running in large packs the entire way. There are 40 people crossing the finish line every 10-15 seconds.”
“I couldn’t believe how crowded it stayed throughout the entire race,” Hasselwander said. “It was really difficult to be aware of my footing and who was around me.”
After a rough season due to injury last year, Hasselwander was able to come back and make up for her missed time. She had mixed feelings about the race being her last one of her collegiate cross country career.
“It definitely meant a lot to me [for Nationals to be my last cross country meet of my college career], especially because this was the first time I made Nationals,” she said. “I do wish that I could have had another shot there though for cross country because I feel like I learned a lot about competing in such an intense race just by doing it once.”
Though Hasselwander did not place highly, she and Hartwig had positive things to say about her performance.
“I thought Kellie handled the entire experience very well,” Hartwig said. “It’s an odd feeling to run the entire season with teammates and then be at the toughest meet of the year on your own. She warmed up well, got out well the first mile and had decent splits. Her time was among her best of her career. Considering that she ran in traffic the entire way, I thought she did well.”
“It’s hard to look at my place and feel satisfied since I went from being top 15 at Regionals to being in only the middle third at Nationals,” Hasselwander said, “but since my time was decent and I was racing against the best Division III runners in the country, I try not to feel too disappointed.”
With Hasselwander’s experience fresh in their minds, the team is looking forward to a promising season next year. After a turn-around season this year, they hope to reproduce her performance and qualify as a team for the competition.
“At the end of the 2006 season everyone was pretty frustrated and disappointed with our performances,” Hartwig said. “We had suffered through a lot of injuries and illnesses and were never able to put forth a performance befitting of our talents. I think this made the team more determined to do better this season. Every meet this season was a building block for the next competition… I know that [Kellie] has her teammates inspired to try to make it as a team next year. It won’t be easy, but with motivation and hard work, I think they could do it.”
Philbrick is a member of the class of 2009.