The UMW men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to Heritage Farms Park in Walkersville, Md. this past Saturday to compete in the 2009 Capital Athletic Conference Championship.
In the 8K race, the men’s team saw five runners finish in the top nine in capturing the 2009 CAC title. For the 6K race, the UMW women finished in second place, just five points behind champion Salisbury University.
Going into the CAC meet, both teams knew that their hard work and dedication would be put to the test. With the UMW and Salisbury University being the only two schools in the conference to ever win a CAC cross country championship, UMW was well aware that SU was the team to beat.
The men’s team was feeling especially confident with a well rounded top 5 squad comprised of mostly seniors who were looking to make their final stand.
“The team would settle for nothing less than a win. We were without our No. 2 runner Jason Driscoll, but our depth carried us through with some sophomores and a freshmen picking up the slack,” commented CAC runner of the year and senior Frank DeVar.
The women’s team was equally prepared and they knew that if they were to win, they would have to put up a fight.
“Salisbury in general has a very strong set of girls that always packs a punch in the front,” said CAC runner of the year and junior Sarah Dawes.
DeVar finished first in the men’s 8K race with a time of 25:23.66, Senior Brian Fulton finished second overall with a time of 27:03.47, and freshman Scott Plunkett took fifth with a time of 27:23.55. Seniors Matt Cash and Jake Pattyson finished eighth and ninth to round out the UMW “top 5”.
Other noteworthy performances came from Sophomore Kyle Anderson who finished in 12th place and was joined on the All-CAC squad by sophomore David Gayek who took 14th place.
Sophomore Chris Marino and Junior Stephen Harrison both finished in the top 20 as well. The final men’s scores were tallied up at Mary Washington 25, Salisbury University 38, and York College 71.
Head coach Stan Soper was excited to see his men’s team race so well, especially when he knew the scoring had put UMW in first by race’s end.
“The men’s race went about the way we had hoped it would. We needed to take advantage of our team’s depth, so while our top men got out strong, some of our other guys hung back a little the first half of the race, and then moved up through the ranks to secure the win,” said Soper.
For the women’s 6K race, junior Sarah Dawes finished first with a time of 24:12.79. Junior Kristy Witek took third at 24:52.50, and was joined on the All-CAC first team by Michaela Sands in seventh place at 25:17.73. Sophomore Mara Cate took 11th at 25:46.11, and Dawn Rainbolt also joined the All-CAC team in 13th place at 25:56.82. Senior Nina Pfeiffer also finished in the top 20, taking 17th at 26:37.63.
The women’s race was a very close contention between UMW and Salisbury.
“During the finishing stretch coaches were yelling at me and the Salisbury girls saying that we both needed the points,” according to Junior Kristy Witek.
In the end, the final women’s score among the top three schools was Salisbury 30, Mary Washington 35, and York College 84.
While accepting second to Salisbury, the UMW women and Coach Stan Soper knew it couldn’t have been a closer race.
“Every UMW girl was fighting as hard as they could, coming down the final stretch, giving it everything they had. Immediately after the women’s race, I knew the score was close, but I had thought we had won, so naturally I was excited. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way,” commented Soper.
Overall, both UMW cross country teams are proud of their successes and are happy that their perseverance paid off.
“Our strengths are definitely in our work ethic. We have runners in the pool multiple nights a week, doing weight workouts, running twice a day. We also all share the same goal of winning conferences and qualifying for nationals,” said DeVar.
CAC awards from the meet include Men’s Coach of the Year to Soper and Runners of the Year to Dawes and DeVar for their outstanding season performances and champions of their races.
“Soper is a great coach and he really cares about all of us. He puts so much time and effort into making sure we all are ready for the championships,” said Witek.
“Sarah Dawes ran a courageous race. She took the lead and never looked back, so she deserved runner of the year,” said DeVar.
“To say that Frank ‘dominated’ the field would be an understatement. He certainly showed he was on another level than the rest of the competition….Frank was by far the best runner in the conference the past two years, and will go down as one of the best ever in the history of the conference,” said Soper.
The next item on Mary Washington Cross Country’s agenda is the NCAA South/Southeast regional meet, this Saturday in Greensboro, N.C. where both teams will make a run for the national meet as individuals and teams.