By NICK NELSON
The men’s and women’s cross country teams had an outstanding combined effort this weekend, as each placed first in the Washington & Lee Invitational last Saturday in Lexington.
Sophomore Kyle Anderson and junior Kristy Witek were both named Capital Athletic Conference athletes of the week, helping their teams to victory against seven other schools. Anderson finished the eight-kilometer race in 28:59, while Witek finished her five-kilometer event in 20:37. Witek led a group of seven members of the Mary Washington team to finish in the top 20, including senior Jason Driscoll taking third place with a time of 29:09.
Other Eagle runners to place included junior Stephen Harrison who finished fifth, freshman Scott Plunkett completing the race in sixth, and sophomore Chris Marino and freshman Sean Healy finished 12th and 13th respectively.
On the women’s side, junior Sara Dawes placed bronze, sophomores Mara Cate and Michaela Sands finished seventh and 10th respectively, while the top-20 was rounded out by senior Nina Pfeiffer (14th), sophomore Dawn Rainbolt (17th) and junior Madelyn Crowell (19th).
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Witek said. “It started downhill, which was great, but the second mile was all uphill, that was tough. We did very good overall.”
Both teams view Saturday’s win as a promising start to the 2009 cross country season.
“I’m very pleased with the effort,” Coach Stan Soper said. “We were very competitive. The men’s team was very successful, despite missing a few guys, which just shows the depth on the men’s side. This is the best we’ve looked in a long time.”
Soper was equally pleased with the performance of his women’s squad as well.
“They’re not as deep, but of course, you’re always happy with a win. There’s less room for error [with less depth], and they’ll have to be on their game.”
The entire team realizes what is necessary to continue their winning ways throughout the rest of the season.
“The first win is always a confidence builder,” Soper said, “but come [Saturday’s event] it’s just another race. The sport is as much mental and emotional as it is physically though, and it’s a great way to build confidence. It sets the tone for the season and shows that the summer training really paid off.”
According to Witek, the weather was a factor early in the race.
“It was freezing at first, but once the sun came out, it felt great out there, really a great day for it,” Witek said.
Everyone involved commented on the fact that both squads were able to give very impressive showings despite missing key members of the team and it being so early in the season.
“It was our first race, so we were a little more conservative out there,” Anderson said. “We had fun though, and a win gets us excited.”
“We’re the second team in the region, and we don’t even have Hayley [Sullivan] back yet,” Witek said. “Really shows that we can stay strong out there.”
Both teams will lace up their running shoes and return to action this Saturday at the Dickinson College Invitational in Carlisle, Penns.