Last Saturday morning, Nov. 13, the Mary Washington men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the NCAA Division III South/Southeast Regional, earning ninth and 10th place respectively. The championship, hosted by Rhodes College in Memphis, Tn., proved a difficult conquest for the UMW Eagles, testing their endurance and determination, skills they had sharpened through the season’s training.
Head Coach Stan Soper thought highly of the weekend’s competition and was pleased with his team’s effort against such stiff competition.
“Outstanding effort from some individuals. Though not everyone had their best day, some did.” Soper said. “No regrets, they’ve all come very far.”
For the men, sophomore Scott Plunkett achieved all-region honors, coming in 22nd place with a time of 26:18 during the men’s 8K race. Likewise, senior Sarah Dawes received all-region honors for the women, taking 18th place with a time of 23:05 in the women’s 6K race.
Following Plunkett in Mary Washington’s top five for the men’s 8K race were junior Chris Marino in 41st place at 26:47, sophomore Sean Healy in 54th at 27:02, junior Kyle Anderson in 65th at 27:18, and senior Stephen Harrison placing 81st with a time of 27:33.
The Lady Eagles’ top five consisted of Dawes in 18th place, followed by freshman Elizabeth Green in 32nd at 23:25, senior Madalyn Crowell in 62nd at 24:28, junior Dawn Rainbolt in 70th at 24:41, and senior Kristy Witek rounded out the UMW top five by taking 75th place overall with a time of 24:43.
Although the men and women had successful seasons, as both teams placed second in the 2010 Capitol Athletic Conference championships, the teams were slightly dissatisfied with their overall performances in Memphis.
“As a team, we had a solid season,” Green said. “We were all somewhat disappointed with the final results at Regionals, but with the tough race conditions, I was proud of everyone’s effort.
“We would have liked to have placed higher,” Soper said. “The men hoped for a seventh or eighth finish, which was just a few points here or there and the same for the women. But overall, I was pleased with everyone’s efforts. They ran well.”
Now that the 2010 season has come to a close, the Eagles are already setting new goals for next Fall.
“Next season I think we all have very common goals for the team: winning the conference and qualifying for Nationals,” Plunkett said. “Both are definitely a stretch, but we don’t graduate any of our top seven, and with a summer of hard work, anything is possible.”
In general, the men’s team seems to acknowledge their past season as one of rebuilding and to recognize that, in order to improve, they will have to exert serious dedication in the off-season.
“Preparation for the next season for me is all about putting in a lot of miles in the off-season. That’s really when the work needs to be done,” Healy said. “During the season, Coach Soper dictates what we do, and he prepares us fantastically for the meets, but it’s up to me and the other runners to put in the work when he’s not watching.”
As the women will be graduating three seniors this year, the team will be focusing on developing their younger members.
Green said she is excited to start training for next season and she looks forward to the challenges that new year will present.
“[My goal] will be to continue to increase my speed while working on hills and strength to give our team the best chance to win,” Green said.
In addition to the men and women’s hard work and preparations, Coach Soper said he hopes for strong incoming classes of freshmen in 2011 to further progress the University of Mary Washington’s cross country program.