By CODY REYNOLDS
The University of Mary Washington men’s and women’s cross country teams finished 10th and ninth respectively at the South/Southeast NCAA Regional Championship this past Saturday, November 14 in Winchester, Virginia.
The men’s team was fighting an uphill battle with top runner junior Ben Sorensen being out for the race, along with senior Kevin Speray and freshman J.P. Burklow suffering injuries mid-race. The top places on men’s team were hotly contested, with the top two runners finishing within .3 seconds of each other.
Senior Ian Granger was able to narrowly secure 29th place with a time of 27:12 beating out sophomore teammate Kevin Jones, who finished 31st. Because the top 35 individuals in the race earn All-Region honors, Granger and Jones before secured that medal for the first time.
The top runners on the women’s team finished in a pack led by senior Claudia Autore in 35th place with a time of 23:49, earning her first All-Region honor as well. She was followed by fellow senior Colleen Boyle at 42nd overall with a time of 24:04.
Senior captain Sam Park described the course as fairly hilly, but not too difficult. The team had raced at the course before a few weeks prior and knew what to expect. When asked about how she felt finishing her final cross country meet, Park felt that “It still doesn’t feel real that my cross country career is over.”
Park had been running XC for eight years, and spoke on how hard it was to say goodbye.
“Distance running is a big part of how I identify myself,” Park said, “so even though my collegiate career of cross country is over, I’ll continue to run and compete in road races.” Park also noted how quickly one loses their endurance, so she will be limiting her off season to one week before preparing for the indoor track season this spring.
“It will be my first chance to take more than 14 days off in between seasons since high school, I will continue running half marathons,” Park said.
The Eagles were the last of the UMW fall sports to finish their season, attesting to how long the experience is.
“It was so much fun because we had a small team, together we accomplished so much,” Park said. “I’m proud of my team and I’ll miss running everyday with such a fun and hardworking group.”
This year was the first under new head coach Kunle Lawson following the retirement of long-time UMW coach Stan Soper. Jones thought that both Lawson and assistant distance coach Alec Villiva “have made him a better runner this year.” Last year, Jones finished 90th at the regional championships. “I didn’t know how well I placed until after the race, I felt that the coaches prepared me well enough so that I could do as well as I did.”
When asked if there was any animosity felt between teammates when there is a neck and neck finish, Jones responded that “There are small rivalries within the team, and even if it is a little frustrating to be beaten at the finish I’m just happy that the team pulled together when it mattered and made something happen out there.”
Jones went on to mention that he is “looking forward to a little off season” to give his legs a rest and to focus on his schoolwork, but is “excited for the indoor track to start this winter and show what I’m capable of outside the conference.”
The Eagles had a strong season, and under a new coach showed great confidence in their abilities. The runners are looking forward to coming back strong this winter and spring in both indoor and outdoor track.