Last Saturday, Oct. 24, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams competed at Elizabethtown, Penn. in their last meet before the Capital Athletic Conference, to be held at Hood College on Nov. 7.
On the women’s side, UMW placed second out of 11 competing teams, losing to long time rival Salisbury University. The course, which was described as hilly and muddy, consisted of all types of terrain, and infamous steps, which caused a large number of runners to break their stride rhythm. Junior Kristy Whitek was the top UMW women’s finisher, placing fifth overall with a time of 26:12. Whitek, who has been competing with UMW since freshman year, described the course as “the worst course I have ever ran…”. Junior Sarah Dawes, who placed second within the UMW team with a time of 26:27, remembered the mud and rough conditions “…because of the previous rain” that had fallen.
Throughout the season the women’s team has been closely competing with Salisbury, winning most of the previous races. On Saturday however, SU beat the UMW womens’ team by 11 points, causing tension on outlooks for the CAC in early November. Sophomore Michaela Sands isn’t worried though,
“We will get them at conferences,” she said, after she admitted, “they snuck up on us.”
The women are confident in their abilities to win the CAC, now prepared with what they need to improve on before the race.
“They [SU] have more depth than us, but we have a stronger punch,” Dawes said.
The men placed sixth out of 17 teams at Elizabethtown, without several key runners. Freshman Scott Plunkett, who placed third on the UMW men’s side with a time of 21:36, said that “a few have been sick,” but feels that the “close team” will be able to pull through at the CAC. A few of the men have been growing mustaches in the hopes of winning luck throughout the season, some have given up, but Plunkett has stuck with it, hoping it will help him place in the top seven UMW men’s runners at the CAC which would allow him to compete at the Regional Championships the following week.
In addition, senior Brian Fulton was optimistic about the results from Saturday’s race, saying, “at least everyone faced the same conditions.”
When asked his predictions for the CAC, Fulton replied: “A lot of people run their mouths and talk about what they will do, but the only thing that matters is what happens come race day,” and then added “But I can tell you that [it’s] going to be wild.”
The men’s and women’s coach, Stan Soper, seemed somewhat nervous about the flu circulating the teams, and the potential impact it would have at the CAC, but said he “truly believe[s] when everyone is healthy we are the better team.” There is a total focus on the conference meet, and with the women’s team facing their “share of adversity” this season with injuries, illnesses and the like, Soper said the women have been remaining positive and that “a coach couldn’t ask for more.”
Senior Matt Cash was concerned about the obstacles that may face the teams at the CAC, “We only have one thing on our minds; we’re looking to hurt Salisbury. Win or lose, they are going to have the worst day of their lives.”