By ETHAN BLOUCH
For UMW’s cross country team, the goal each season is making it into the championship, though UMW does not always get to participate in said event. The players who can go into the event are those from schools who make into the top 7 spots in a regional event, which takes place about a week before the championship. This year, two UMW students made it into the top slot: junior Jeff Gibson and senior Jillian Weisbeck.
Both of these students have been running since high school. “I started out running to get in better shape for baseball, then I realized I liked running more than baseball,” said Gibson.
For Weisbeck, running was the first sport that she really felt skilled in. “I don’t really have hand-eye coordination…running came naturally to me.”
The UMW cross country team holds practice runs seven days a week, both as a group and on their own. Weisbeck, who works as a nurse at the Mary Washington Hospital, often has to wait until her shift ends to do night runs. Jeff tries to run twice a day four days a week, both in the morning and in the afternoon.
The championship takes place in Wisconsin. There were around 283 competitors within the race and around 2,000 spectators. Neither Weisbeck or Gibson personally knew any of the other competitors, though they had heard of them.
The track went around a golf course, forming the shape of two small loops and one larger loop. With cold weather, mud on the tracks and very little space for each individual runner to navigate, the conditions were not optimal for any of the runners.
Nevertheless, as both Weisbeck or Gibson attested, they were able to focus their minds on other things. In fact, Weisbeck stated that she enjoyed running in the cold weather, as it made it more difficult for her to become dehydrated.
While running the course itself, both athletes described themselves as being boxed in by the other runners. However, they managed to avoid some of the pitfalls that other people fell into, such as slipping in the mud.
For the men, the nationals was an 8k race, while the women ran a slightly shorter 7k. In the end, Gibson managed to make the race at 25 minutes and 9 seconds, attaining the 54th position overall. Weisbeck managed to finish 77th at 22:23, making it her second-best time ever running a 7k, with her best being 22:10. Both athletes were proud of getting into the top 100.
When commenting on the team’s performance overall, both thought the team had made tremendous progress over the semester.
“I definitely saw a lot of freshmen stepping up this time, and I think that with some more experience our team is going to be in really great shape,” said Gibson.
Weisbeck agreed that the team would be in “terrific” shape, and wished them well in the next year’s championships.
As Weisbeck is graduating this spring, this was her last hurrah, and she feels happy with the progress she made. Gibson, who has another year at UMW to improve, is setting the bar higher for himself.
“I’m going to get a higher position next time,” said Weisbeck.