BY ANDREW KADA
This past weekend, The University of Mary Washington’s cross country teams opened their seasons at the Lebanon Valley Invitational in Annville, Pa. After running hard the whole day the men’s team took first, while the women won third among the 14 teams competing.
With torrential downpours on the UMW campus and the eastern seaboard by Hurricane Hanna, the teams were racing under similar weather conditions.
“The course was wet, rainy, muddy, hilly, and torn up,” sophomore team captain Hayley Sullivan said. “In the end it was the rain that made the race fun.”.
Summer preparation for the fall 2008 cross country season began at the end of last spring. Both teams took on rigorous training schedules tailored by head coach Stan Soper. The men’s team’s preparation included top runners running up to 100 miles per week as well as bi-weekly workouts before their return to campus.
In addition to the determined and fast returning veterans, this year’s teams were joined by a group of qualified and strong additions by means of recruitment and tryouts.
“I’m very impressed with our freshman this year,” Soper said.
Senior team captain JT Newcomb is also enthused about the potential that the new class brings.
“These freshmen ran times that some of our best runners did their first year. They show great passion to win and potential to do well,” Newcomb said.
Reflecting upon the men’s and women’s preparation and drive, their performances on Saturday yielded great results among the colleges that attended. The men’s team finished their top five runners within the top 15 spots of the entire meet.
The team was led by Capital Athletic Conference runner of the week, junior Frank DeVar with a second place overall finish of 26:27 on the five-mile course. The other top runners that scored for the Eagles included junior Matt Cash, who led a pack of Eagle runners with a 9th finish at 27:06. Junior Jake Pattyson finished 10th at 27:10, junior Jason Driscoll took 11th at 27:11, senior J.T. Newcomb placed 15th at 27:31, and junior Brian Fulton right beside him with 16th, at 27:31.
The UMW women also finished favorably with their top 5 runners within the Top 25 spots, led by the CAC female runner of the week, Sophomore Hayley Sullivan had an overall 1st place finish of 19:03 on the 3.2 mile course.
Following leader Hayley Sullivan were Senior Kira Runkle at 20th with 20:52, Sophomore Sarah Dawes steps behind at 21st with 20:55, Sophomore Kristy Witek placing 24th with 21:19, and Freshman Brittany Combs taking 26th at 21:28.
Both the Eagle teams are optimistic and confident about their seasons ahead. Their meet schedule is a challenging one with a mixture of high caliber talent necessary for their path to CAC title.
“With some quality D-III meets, but also some competitions against some D-I schools, we hope that they will help us improve so that we will be ready for the championship portion of the season,” Soper said.
However, DeVar was far more assertive in his expectations and goals for the men’s team this year.
“We not only plan to win conferences— but we want to destroy Salisbury. Then, we plan on qualifying for nationals with a top two team finish at regionals,” DeVar said.
Even more promising is that with such success so early in the season, there is a lot of room for improvement.
“Our people were just getting back into the feel of racing, no one has even come close to their potential, not until later in the season will that happen,” Sullivan said.
Future meets of interest for UMW that the Eagle squads have coming up include the James Madison Invitational this Saturday as well as the George Mason University invitational, and Salisbury Invitational.