The women’s cross country team finished 25th of 32 teams at the NCAA DIII Championships this Saturday in Louisville, KY. Third-year Khia Kurtenbach led the way with a time of 20:54.4, finishing 10th overall out of 280 participants and earning All-American honors.
“It means a lot to go out and race and know that I’m not just representing myself, but I’m representing my school and representing my teammates. I definitely think during the race and post-race to make my teammates and the teammates who are watching proud,” Kurtenbach said. She received All-American status for the second consecutive year.
Kurtenbach was followed by fourth-year Madeleine Horvath in 163rd with a time of 22:22.2, third-year Megan Verner-Crist in 186th with a time of 22:33.4, third-year Claire Costelloe in 195th with a time of 22:35.0, third-year Kelsey Dunn in 207th with a time of 22:41.3, third-year Cassidy McPherson in 210th with a time of 22:45.7, and first-year Taylor Campos in 236th with a time of 22:58.6.
This year was the seventh straight team appearance in the National Championship for the Maroons. However, 25th was the team’s lowest finish since 2011, when they finished 27th.
“I think that as a team we were obviously really excited to be at the national meet,” Kurtenbach said. “On the other hand, I don’t think that we had our best day at the meet. I think our team is a better team than 25th in the country.”
One of the reasons the team was not able to perform as well as expected was that not prepared for the speed with which the race started. After just 3K, the squad was 10th, but by the 4.18K mark it had dropped down to 21st before eventually dropping to 25th by the end of the race. Kurtenbach moved from 15th to seventh and finally to 10th during those intervals.
“I don’t know if we were quite as prepared for the pace that the race went out at, but I also think there’s an element of confidence and experience that comes from racing in those meets, and knowing that even if you get out really fast that you have the training behind you to be able to try and hold that,” Kurtenbach said. “I think that as our team builds confidence over the next year, we’ll come back and be more ready for that.”
The team has reason to be optimistic about its future prospects since most of its members will be returning next season.
“I think the national meets are like a different atmosphere than any of the meets you race all season,” Kurtenbach said. “We’re only graduating one senior, so next year we’re going to come back with even more experience. And I think as you gain experience, you learn how to handle the pressure of all the really big meets and all the excitement that comes with that pressure. We were really fit and prepared for the race, but some days you’re there and some days you’re not.”
The Maroons will break until next year, although many of the cross country runners will also participate in the track and field seasons during the winter and spring.