This past weekend, men’s and women’s cross-country competed at DIII West Regionals at Pomona-Pitzer in California. While the men’s team raced well, the women came in fourth, just five points behind the third place team. The top three finishers, Willamette, Claremont McKenna, and Whitworth, are all nationally ranked teams.
“It’s super heartbreaking that they didn’t get to go as a team to Nationals,” said Assistant Coach Alex Nichols. “But since everyone is going to come back, they are going to be a really good team [next year].”
Though the women’s team isn’t headed to Nationals as a whole, three individuals made it to Nationals, which is extremely rare. “No other team in the country is sending three individually instead of just sending the entire team,” said Coach Nichols.
The three girls headed to Nationals are freshman Allysa Warling and juniors Katie Sandfort and Leah Wessler, who all broke their personal records by nearly a minute at the regional meet.
While Wessler and Sandfort tend to start out slower and then pick up speed halfway through a race, Warling comes out fast and keeps her pace.
“Alyssa didn’t get to run quite the race she wanted to at the conference championships and ended up being a little more tactical,” said Coach Nichols. “So at Regionals, she just stuck to the way that she usually runs and it worked really well for her.”
The Tigers were bolstered by stellar individual performances, but the team’s success this year has been a group effort.
As sophomore Patty Atkinson said, “People think cross country is a really individual sport. But when it comes to placing, it is such a team sport.” Atkinson emphasizes the importance of training and running as a pack. “In a race when you see your teammate up ahead and know you can catch them and run together, it’s really encouraging,” said Atkinson. Atkinson claims that she and teammates will work together to pass people and keep each other motivated to do their best.
Junior Conor Terhune agrees that cross-country is more team-oriented than individualistic. “Unlike other team sports where an individual has the ability to ‘carry the team on their back,’ cross country requires all teammates to run well in order to win meets,” said Terhune. Terhune is disappointed that no member of the men’s team qualified for Nationals, but he is happy that the seniors that attended ran well.
Specifically, senior Jake Rothman had a standout performance. Rothman placed higher this year than in the past by nearly 50 spots. “I just missed All-Region and didn’t get that one last PR…” said Rothman. “What matters most, though, is that I’ve been given the opportunity to grow stronger in the sport I love and to have made such profound and lasting friendships. I have learned so much about meaning, and joy, and life; this sport has made me incredibly happy and I will always be deeply grateful.”
There is much hope and excitement for the upcoming track season because both teams are young, motivated, and hungry to win. For now, the team celebrates Warling, Wessler, and Sandfort heading to Nationals, a feat that speaks highly of the strong team that the Tigers have assembled this year.