By JOSH JOHNSON
The University of Mary Washington women’s cross country team won its first Capital Athletic Conference championship in six years on Saturday, October 27, as the Eagles saw seven runners finish in the top 18 to take home their 14th league title since 1991 at the CAC championships in Frostburg, Md. The Eagle men finished in second place, 14 points behind York College of Pa.
Both teams went into the CAC championships intending to win. The women did, finishing first with 29 points, six ahead of second-place York, who had 35.
“We definitely achieved what we had set out to do,” said Trinity Smyth. The women were favored to win, though the women from York College certainly presented a serious threat. The depth of the women’s squad proved to be a deciding factor, as the women had a couple injuries to key runners, yet were still able to prevail over York.
The women were led to a first place finish by sophomore Tara Landy, who crossed the finish line of the 6 km course in 23:53.
“Winning the CAC Championships individually and as a team was one of the best feelings in the world. I still can’t stop smiling!” said Landy. Close behind Landy followed junior Liz Green with a fifth place finish in 24:45, who was followed by freshman and CAC Rookie of the Year Laura Braney in sixth at 24:47, sophomore Trinity Smyth in eighth at 24:48 and freshman Colleen Boyle in ninth at 25:01. Freshman Sam Park finished 16th overall at 25:40, followed by Caroline Cerand in 18th at 25:57.
Landy, Green and Braney took first team all-conference honors, with Smyth and Boyle taking second team honors. “I am so incredibly proud of my team for giving this race their all and pushing each other throughout the hilly course. The team with the most heart won,” said Landy.
After losing by a narrow margin last year the women this year felt somewhat vindicated in regaining the conference title.
“Since the women’s team had not won in many years it was a significant win; since last year it has been engrained in us, when racing, to chase any Salisbury or York girl. After coming close to winning last year, it felt so amazing to be able to contribute to this team and this win” said Trinity Smith. With the women’s #1 goal for the season accomplished they will now look ahead to the NCAA regional championships.
The men finished second in the championship with 46 points, behind first-place York (32 points) and third place Salisbury (66 points).
“Going into the day we knew we had a shot to win, so obviously that was our goal,” said senior Scott Plunkett. “It would have taken some great performances by us, as well as some of the York guys faltering for us to win, and, unfortunately, it just didn’t work out.”
Most expected the men’s race to be a three-way battle between Salisbury, UMW and York, with York as a slight favorite. The men’s team had two key runners that sustained mid-season injuries and were not back to being 100 percent, so, in a race with little room for error the rest of the top group of runners had to race exceptionally well.
Unfortunately, a few of the men struggled with physical issues in the race.
Plunkett led the men with second overall finish in 27:15 in the 8 km race, after going out strong with eventual overall winner, York junior Tim Hartund, before falling behind at the three-mile mark. Closely following Plunkett was junior Jeff Branson, who finished fifth in 27:53.
Other top finishers include sophomore Julian Menk in ninth at 28:08, freshman Nick Eghtessad in 16th at 28:40, senior Quincy Schmidt in 17th at 28:43, senior Sean Healy in 20th at 28:56 and sophomore Will Green in 21st at 28:59. Plunkett and Branson gained first team all-conference honors, while Menk took second team accolades.
“We had some great efforts from the guys, but it was just not quite enough,” said coach Stan Soper. Ultimately, the York squad ran exceptionally well, making a win difficult. “As teammates, we were very disappointed that we could not beat defending CAC champions York College,” said Menk.
The men will now switch their focus to the upcoming NCAA regional championships, where top runner Plunkett stands a good chance to qualify for the National championships held the following weekend in Indiana.
“We definitely will do better as a team on Nov. 10th down in Atlanta, Ga. for our NCAA regional meet” said Jeff Branson.
On November 10th, the top seven members of the women’s and men’s cross country teams will race in Atlanta at the NCAA South/Southeast Regional Championships.