Women’s XC sprints towards strong conference finish

Mario Santos-Davidson, Staff Writer

The Women’s Cross Country team entered the season with relatively high expectations after finishing 9th in the West Region during the 2014 season. The addition of six first-year racers helps replace the seven that graduated a year ago and provides optimism for the future of the team.

After having the first race of the 2015 season cancelled due to wildfires, the season kicked off in Spokane on Sept. 19, with Whitman finishing 2nd of 4. They finished 10th of 18 two weeks later at the Willamette Invite, beating five Northwest Conference rivals in the process.

“We raced against our entire Conference at Willamette, but it was a 5k, and normally women run 6ks. Our team is a much stronger 6k team,” said senior captain Emily Williams. “We did pretty well there, but I think with a longer race we’ll see better results.”

Fellow captain Julia Hart shares Williams’ optimism about the rest of the season.

“I’m looking forward to Conference and Regionals and hoping to do really well at both of those,” the senior said. “We’re doing a new training plan this season, more geared toward succeeding at the end of the season.”

That is exactly what Head Cross Country Running Coach Scott Shields wanted from the new system.

The women’s cross country team at practice. Photo by Natalie Mutter.

“We’ve done a few new workouts this year and everyone seems to be responding very positively,” he commented. “I meet with all my runners on a weekly or biweekly basis and they just talk about how much better they feel this season, how strong they feel.”

On top of his improved training regime, Coach Shields has been able to support the new runners and help set and reach their goals.

“All the coaches are really knowledgeable and good at telling you what you need to work on,” first-year Andrea Hood said. “I walked on to the team and the coach was really welcoming and said he was going to train me the rest of the year and turn me into a whole different runner by next season.”

The coaches can’t do everything themselves, however, and captains Emily Williams and Julia Hart, along with the rest of the veterans, are also important leaders.

“[The veterans] are the teachers of how to do things as student-athletes. [The first-years] watch, they learn, they listen, and the ones that latch on to that sooner than later have success quicker,” said Shields.

Hart spoke to her role as a captain and overall leader for the younger runners.

“[I try to be] a good role model, trying to teach them how to balance [practices and meets] with working and sleeping,” Hart stated.

This is very important for the new racers, and they have more than just a few role models to look up to. Not only have the first-years been a great addition to the team as competitors, but they have also fit in seamlessly with their teammates off the course.

“It’s a good group of freshmen, and they dove right into the team and really hit it off with everyone right away,” said Shields.

Andrea Hood also praised her teammates’ willingness to help her become adjusted to life as a cross-country runner.

“[The team] has been really helpful with me managing my mileage per week because I’d never done that before. Overall the team is just full of great people,” Hood commented.

Despite solid contributions across the board and a few noticeable improvements after an offseason full of work, the team still has some work to do if it hopes to secure its place in the top 10 of the West Region and potentially make it to Nationals.

Photo by Natalie Mutter.
Photo by Natalie Mutter.