This past weekend was bittersweet for the women’s cross country team. They finished fifth at the 38-team Midwest Regional Championship at Augustana University on Saturday. Even after the disappointing finish, the team earned an at-large bid for the NCAA Championship.
“It’s good to be in the NCAAs but this was not our best effort of the season,” said head coach Chris Hall. “In some ways I feel we were looking beyond the regional meet and the teams that finished in front of us looked much more focused on the regional race.”
Those teams were UW-Eau Claire, the UW-Stevens Point, and the UW-Oshkosh, as well as Wash U. The Maroons finished 48 points behind first-place finisher University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
On the individual side, fourth-year Liz Lawton took top individual honors with a time of 20:57 in the six-kilometer course. She was five seconds ahead of St. Norbert College’s Jenny Scherer.
“It felt great to win,” said Lawton. “I work my heart out every day so I was running that race to win no matter what.”
Three more Maroons followed to finish among the top 30 in a field of 263 runners.
Third-year Rachel Ohman finished 18th with a time of 22:10, second-year Julia Sizek placed 25th with a time of 22:21, and fourth-year Molly Peverada finished 28th in 22:25 minutes.
“As a team, we had a few problems that caused us to not perform the way we wanted to,” said Lawton. “But we’re in the process of addressing those and figuring out how to become the best team we can at Nationals and still chase after that trophy.”
The team has already begun focusing on this Saturday’s Nationals at Wartburg College. No matter what the team has previously done, anything can change at Nationals.
“When that gun fires next week, all the cards are laid down. That’s the magic with cross country, every race is different,” explained Lawton. “Unexpected things happen every race and no one is safe from the gruesome, raw competition.”
Coach Hall also expects his team to come to Nationals ready to compete.
“It’s hard to put a place goal on the NCAAs but we would definitely like to finish in the top ten and we will put ourselves in a position to be top four and trophy.”
Lawton echoed Hall’s sentiments: “The best will win on Saturday and if we bring our A game across the board, we are in the hunt for a national trophy.”
Coming into next Saturday, the Maroons are one of five teams to represent the University Athletic Association. They join Emory, Wash U, Case Western, and NYU. This is their sixth appearance in the NCAA Championship. The highest they’ve ever placed is sixth in 1998. This year a higher finish is definitely within the team’s grasp.