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Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire


Kristen Ballinger makes it cross country nationals

C ross-country runner Kristen Ballinger '11 zooms past the competition. Credit: Jacobson
C ross-country runner Kristen Ballinger '11 zooms past the competition. Credit: Jacobson

On a freezing day in November, hundreds of female cross-country runners representing Division III colleges from across the nation gathered at Hanover College in Hanover, Ind. to make a run at a national championship.

Kristen Ballinger, a junior cross-country runner for Whitman, was among their ranks, trying to keep her limbs warm and remain focused amid the jostling for position at the starting line.

Ballinger, her father and assistant coach, Neal Christopherson,  all made the trip from Seattle to Hanover the day before. In the days leading up to the big race, Ballinger tried to concentrate on resting and eating right.

“I tried to focus on reading and preparing myself physically (hydrating, stretching, eating right), instead of thinking about the mental aspects of the race for days in advance,” said Ballinger.

“On the morning of the race, I remember feeling a little intimidated by the hundreds of runners warming up on the course wearing black spandex and team sweats, with their ‘game-faces’ on and ear buds pumping inspiration,” said Ballinger. “But I just tried to focus on running the race I wanted to run and tried to shove everything else to the back of my mind.”

When the starting-gun fired, Ballinger was among the first off the line. Exploiting her trademark explosiveness, she sprinted to the front of the pack and took an early lead. By the three kilometer mark, however, her pace began to slow and she receded back into the pack. She eventually placed 107th out of 279 runners.

“I’m a sprinter,” explained Ballinger, “so when I’m excited I’ll often start a race too quickly.  My race at nationals wasn’t any exception. Being the ‘rabbit’ at the front of a pack was exhilarating, but I wasted some energy that might have been helpful in the third mile, where I slowed down.”

Despite the mental error, Ballinger said she felt that she ran well.

“I felt that I ran a good race, although not as well as I could have,” said Ballinger. “This is a pretty typical runner’s retrospective–we always wish that we had gone harder or been tougher.”

After the race, Ballinger said that she was really impressed with the camaraderie amongst the runners.

“Cross-country runners are usually very friendly on and off the course,” said Ballinger.   “Even regional rivals band together when they find themselves in a huge field like nationals: in fact, at the athletes’ banquet, we ate with the Whitworth men’s team: usually our fiercest rival: and we got along great.”

Looking forward to this year, Ballinger said that she is excited about the women’s cross-country team and their chances of making a run at Nationals.

“With luck and hard work I think the Whitman women’s team could make it to Nationals this year,” said Ballinger. “This would be great. Having my teammates there would only motivate me to run harder and leave it all on the course.”

The team has already had some impressive results in the two events they have participated in so far. At the Whitman invitational, the team finished with eight runners in the top 19 and took third place as a team.

At the Lewis and Clark invitational, the Whitman women finished with five runners in the top 12 and took first place as a team.

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  • E

    Estelle HudsonSep 20, 2009 at 5:34 am

    Hiu Stat, Your Mom forard your article to us. Great writing, share some more with us. Glad you are enjoying the Frat House. Love Gogs and Grandad.

  • R

    Roger HudsonSep 18, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    Good article Stat!