Cross Country Places in Blizzard-Struck Capital Athletic Conference

“It was cold,” said junior men’s Cross Country runner Dan Swain about last Saturday’s nine-team meet at John Rudy State Park. Despite the cold, snowy conditions during the York College-hosted CAC Championships round, the Seahawks managed to place fifth overall in the men’s and women’s competitions as they continue to the Mideast Regional on Nov. 12.

Running close to 34 degrees Fahrenheit after an almost four-hour drive to John Rudy, PA, the Seahawks entered 28-strong, as the 13 male and 15 female athletes competed against runners from Salisbury University, the University of Mary Washington, York and Hood Colleges, Frostburg State University, Stevenson and Marymount Universities, and Wesley College.

“I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve ever run in a blizzard,” said junior runner Nick Pasko. “We packed up because if we didn’t then we wouldn’t have been able to see where we were going.”

Out of the 94 individual competitors in the men’s race and 89 in the women’s race, the top three runners of each team placed in the top 38 and 39, respectively.

For the men’s team, Pasko crossed the line first with a 31:14.77 time, placing 36th. Close behind, first-year David Kersey placed 37th with 31:16.75, and first-year Collin Hickey placed 38th with 31:21.87. After two runners from Salisbury and Stevenson crossed the line, Seahawks Tim Carey (first-year), Swain, and Matt Bennett (sophomore) finished the eight-kilometer race under the 32-minute mark.

For the women’s team, first-year Michelle DiMenna took 14th with 27:20.31 in the six-kilometer race, followed closely by junior Katie Phipps, who placed 15th with a 27:21.49 finish.  Junior Margaret Lillie placed 42nd with a 33rd for team scoring, followed by senior Kathleen Tatem in 46th, sophomore Julia Gardner in 55th, junior Alex Moore in 58th, and sophomore Sylviann Houck in 59th.

Overall, the men’s team scored 147 points and the women’s team scored 127. The CAC Championships meet marked the seventh of eight officially scheduled competitions for both teams, with one meet remaining on Nov. 12 at Center Valley, PA, at 11 a.m.

“Overall, I think we are having a pretty good season,” said Tatem. “We have been able to keep our morale up and stay focused despite battling through some tough injuries and racing conditions this season. We are all super excited and ready to go out, run fast and have fun.”

Cross Country Begins Its Season

With the new school year, many teams are just starting to compete. The women’s Cross Country team just had its first two races, The Salisbury Fall Classic and The Green Terror Invitational.

At the Fall Classic, SMCM finished 8th out of 11 teams in the race. A runner on the team, Junior Kaitlyn McGrath, commented on the importance of the Fall Classic in relation to it being the first race of the year, saying, “The fall classic is pretty big… it’s good to see where we are compared to other teams.” She also explained how the course was important for individual runners, saying, “It’s a really flat course and there aren’t a lot of hills, so it’s definitely a course that you will PR (get a Personal Record) on. You always want to go out really strong in that kind of race to see how your former training has gone, where you’re standing compared to previous years.”

Junior Katie Phipps was the first Seahawk to finish, followed by First-Years Michelle DeMenna and Sylviann Houck. This is impressive for the First-years considering McGrath’s words on the difference between high school and college Cross Country, saying, “For a lot of people, like freshmen or people who have never run Cross Country in college, they are used to running in 5Ks, but in college most races are 6Ks for the women and 8Ks for the men. It’s a huge jump, and it might not seem that big to people looking at the numbers, but as far as race strategy goes it’s a huge deal.”

The Green Terror, while being smaller in terms of the number of teams that go, is considered tougher because of the amount of hills there are. McGrath explained a strategy her team would try to use at the race as well as throughout the season in general, saying, “I think the big thing for the girls team is trying to run more as a pack. The way Cross Country is scored is like how golf is scored; the lower number is better…. So if you have one runner coming in early and another coming in late, and you add those two numbers together it’s not going to be as good.”

McGrath also wanted to highlight how teamwork is involved with the sport, saying, “Many times people think Cross Country is an individual sport, which to a degree it is, but at the same time you have that pack mentality of trying to stay together, trying to work together. If one person falls behind you try to push them and pick up the speed and get them to pick it up with you even though they aren’t feeling so good.”

Both men’s and women’s Cross Country have a new coach as well. Lynn O’Dell became the head coach for both teams. The director of Athletics and Recreation Scott Devine said, “Lynn brings a great mix of experiences to our head men’s and women’s Cross Country coach position.  She is a former college student-athlete who has been an outstanding high school educator here in St. Mary’s County.”

Graff spoke positively of her new coach as well as expressed hope for the season, saying, “I think this year we’re going to do a lot better than we did in previous years. Even though we are a young team, we are only three years old, it seems like everyone’s working really hard this year.” She also expressed closeness to her team when she said, “I feel like our team feels more like a family this year, so I’m really excited for the season.”

Women’s XC Holds Strong Fall Pace

As the Seahawks campus-wide begin their Fall 2010 seasons with training, practices, and competition, the Women’s Cross Country team steps up to the starting line for what will certainly be a fast-paced, eventful season.

Ending last season Apr. 30 with the Ocean City Half-Marathon in Ocean City, MD, the Seahawks began summer training on campus to stay in-shape and focused for this season’s vigorous meet schedule.

“We usually get in about six miles each day,” said senior runner and team captain Christi Ford, discussing the team’s typical six-day workout. The team practices every day but Wednesday, and meets against other Colleges are usually scheduled for Saturday.

“We have a very strong team,” said sophomore returner Katie Phipps, now in her second year on the team. “The girl’s team has grown a lot this year with a great freshman team.”

Beginning their inaugural season last year under coach Tom Fisher, the director of the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center, the female Seahawks expanded their team this year, maintaining six of the first year’s seven athletes and gaining five Seahawks, including four first-year runners and one sophomore runner.

“The season’s been going very well,” said Ford. “Performance-wise, we’re doing much better.”

The team is currently a third of the way through the Fall season, completing the third of nine meets last Saturday at York, PA, during the Coach Achtzehn Classic in John Rudy State Park. The Seahawks finished fifth out of ten schools, besting the Community College of Baltimore County by 70 points and following Goucher College at the heels by 38 points. Shannon Rafferty, a first-year athlete from Bel Air, MD, finished fourth in the 79-runner meet, with a 20:14.82 for the five-kilometer race. Following Rafferty was Phipps in 21st, Keighly Bradbrook in 22nd, junior captain Kathleen Tatem in 33rd, Ginger Williams in 35th, Caroline VanBlargan in 41st, Ford in 52nd, and Laura Hewins in 68th.

Other teams at Saturday’s meet included Franklin and Marshall College, McDaniel College, York College of Pennsylvania, Hood College, Stevenson University, Alvernia University, and Lancaster Bible College.

Before Saturday’s meet, the team stood 5th out 11 teams at the Green Terror Invitational at McDaniel College on Sept. 11, with three top 15 individual finishes by Rafferty (5th), Phipps (13th), and Bradbrook (14th). Following closely behind were Tatem (26), VanBlargan (37), Williams (38), Hay (43), Ford (62), Hewins (76), and McGrath (81).

It was the first meet of the season, however, that foreshadowed the difficulties the Women’s Seahawks will face this season. The team finished 7th out of 10 schools at the Salisbury Sea Gull Opener. Finishing in fourth place was Salisbury, whose team the Seahawks will have to stay close to in rankings to make it in the top three at the Capital Athletic Conference Championships. The girls will also have to compete well against the University of Mary-Washington, and beat the current third-place contender, York.
“We’re better prepared this year,” said Fisher, now in his second season with the Seahawks. “We’ve set up a tougher schedule to become prepared for championships.”

While the cross country athletes are staying focused and performing well for the start of the season, player injuries have also taken a toll on the team’s competitive edge. “We’ve been trying to stay one step ahead of the injury bug,” said Fisher. “We’ve had some nagging ones, but we hope to be prepared for the upcoming competition.”

Nevertheless, the Seahawks are preparing for their next meet, the Paul Short Invitational, on Oct. 1 at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. “We want to show the conference that we’re not going anytime soon,” said Phipps.

Following Oct. 1 are the Goucher Cross Country Classics on Oct. 9 in Towson, MD, and the Gettysburg Invitational on Oct. 16, before CAC Championships begin in November.

College Cross-Country Team Holds 24-hour Run for Veterans

The St. Mary’s men’s and women’s Cross Country teams are hosting a 24-hour relay run event in April to benefit hospital-ridden war veterans.

The cross country teams, completing their first season as a Division-III team for the Seahawks in November under coach and Athletics and Recreation Center (ARC) director Tom Fisher, are working alongside the Southern Maryland Vacations for Vets to host the event Apr. 9-10, 5 p.m.-5 p.m.  During the run, at least one of the 15 athletes on the team will be on the St, Mary’s track at all times, mostly in 30-60-minute intervals and alternating shifts.

The program is designed to raise funds for Vacations for Vets, an organization formed in 2007 to provide weekend retreats and small vacations for former military service members in their families, a way of breaking everyday routines in veteran’s hospitals.  Past trips have included chartered fishing tours, boat tours, kayaking, other seasonal activities, and food, lodging, and transportation are provided for the veterans and their families.

The teams are seeking donations and raising money for the event, during which the team will track its total miles accumulated over the 24-hour period.  Half of the proceeds will benefit the cross-country teams for uniforms, shoes, and other necessary equipment, while the other half will be donated to Vacations for Vets.

Anyone interested in donating funds to benefit the cross-country team or Vacations for Vets can do so by filling out a donation form, which can be found on the Cross Country page of the St. Mary’s Athletics website.

First-Year Cross Country Team At a Strong Pace

As the St. Mary’s men’s and women’s cross country teams make their varsity debut, a successful first meet for both teams marks the entry of two strong teams into what will most certainly be a fast-paced season.

Athletics and recreation director Scott Devine announced the addition of the two teams as the 16th and 17th SMCM varsity sports last April, welcoming them “underneath the Seahawk Athletics umbrella.”  Subsequently, the team was accepted by the Capital Athletic Conference, joining the eight other institutions with men’s and women’s cross country teams that would compete the following season.

Over a month later, in late May, ARC director Tom Fisher was named the coach of both teams for his past running experiences and as an avid participant in triathlons, having already recently run in the 6th Annual Got the Nerve Triathlon in Mt. Gretna, PA.  “I was already a member of the ARC staff, so it was a logical decision,” stated Fisher.  “Plus, with my experiences in triathlons, marathons, and para-marathons, I thought I could serve the varsity team well.”

The teams, with eight men and seven women running, began training on September 1st, two weeks after most varsity teams had already begun training.  Nick Pasko, a first-year runner on the men’s team, was not expecting it to be as challenging as it turned out to be.  “My coach in high school was an ex-Marine,” Pasko explained.  “I thought this team would be more laid back, but I was surprised by how much work it was.”

The first meet of the season on September 12th, the Green Terror Split Distance XC Challenge, was hosted by McDaniel College, and featured a 5K and 3K race for runners from Hagerstown, York, Hood, Lancaster Bible, Stevenson, Hagerstown C.C., and Montgomery.  After only two weeks of training, the Seahawks ran a strong, successful race, the men’s team placing fourth out of seven by beating Hood, Lancaster Bible, and Montgomery in both the 5K and 3K races.  The women’s team took third, placing higher than Hood, Hagerstown C.C., Stevenson, and Lancaster Bible.

Individually, first-years Dan Swain, Nick Pasko, and Quint Frauman placed as the top three St. Mary’s runners, as did first-years Katie Phipps and Kristin Hay, and sophomore Kathleen Tatem for the women’s team.  “We had great parental and family support,” said Fisher.  “[Both teams] really exceeded our expectations.”

But both teams still have much training to do.  “We still need to work on conditioning,” said Fisher.  “And some haven’t run since high school, and don’t have the experience.”  As both prepare for the rest of the season with workouts ranging from running to swimming, the friendly bond between the athletes is already more than visible.  “The club wasn’t as ‘teamy,’” said Christianne Ford, former vice president of the SMCM Cross Country Club.  “We’re really committed, and want to be here.”

The teams’ next meet, the York Spartan Invitational, will be sponsored by York College on September 19th, and will feature the women’s 5K and men’s 8K races.

Cross Country to be Varsity Sport in Fall

As the Fall 2009 season begins, students will be able to join the men’s and women’s cross country teams.

Scott Devine, the director of athletics and recreation, made the announcement on April 16.

Men’s and women’s cross country are the sixteenth and seventeenth varsity sports to be offered on campus.

With this addition St. Mary’s joins the rest of the Capital Athletic Conference to have Division III men’s and women’s cross country teams.

The teams will compete in five intercollegiate meets when the season begins.

The search for head coaches for these new sports begins in May.

Cross-Country Makes Varsity Upgrade

Next fall, the number of varsity teams that St. Mary’s sponsors will reach 17, as a new varsity cross-country team is added into the mix.

Director of Athletics and Recreation Scott Devine said that this addition has been on the agenda for some time now.  There has been considerable interest from prospective students, the sport is fairly easy to start up, and there is great potential to attract exceptional student-athletes to the college.  “The beautiful area that the College is situated combined with the numerous trails nearby make this ideal for the sport to grow and flourish,” said Devine.  “The Capital Athletic Conference is happy to see us add the sport as well because SMCM will strengthen the conference and the conference championships in cross country.”

The department plans to hire a part-time coach in the coming months to begin building up a team and to start the process of recruiting potential athletes.  The plan is to begin with a team consisting mainly of club runners and to incorporate new runners each year.  Devine said, “We will start in the fall with a good base of runners who are already here and then add to it over the next few years as the new coach works to recruit talented cross country athletes from around the state and the region.”
Assistant Athletic Director Shawne McCoy has been working out the schedule for the fall season.  It will consist of five or six regular season meets as well as the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) championships and the men’s and women’s teams will travel together to away meets.

Another motivation for launching the varsity team comes from the great interest among the current club runners.  Vice President Tristan St. Onge says, “The majority of them ran in high school and miss that sense of competition and the idea of a real ‘team’ they can train with.”  This will provide the opportunity for these runners as well as others to showcase their hard work and talent in Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Despite the varsity upgrade, the club team will stay intact for those who want a less competitive running experience.  “I believe that there will be interest in keeping the club as well since some of the club members like to run only for fun.  It is easier and more fun to run with other people than by yourself,” says St. Onge.

The club has been busy this season, participating in five road races thus far.  Most of these races were 5Ks, measuring 3.1 miles; however they have plans to run some lengthier distances this spring.  Senior Anna Vaudin describes, “There’s a race in Leonardtown in April where you can run either 5K or 10K, which is nice because the runners have a choice of distance while all participating in the same event.”  The team also plans to participate in a run to Point Lookout this semester.  “It’s a 12.5 mile run, so it’s a big accomplishment when you’re done,” Vaudin says.

This development proves that the college’s athletics program is moving in an exciting direction.  Devine said, “We are confident that we will fill both the male and female cross country rosters with student athletes who will train hard and represent the college in a first class manner. It will be fun to see the Seahawks competing in cross country this upcoming fall.”  Anyone who has an interest in the men’s or women’s cross country team next year should contact Scott Devine at swdevine@smcm.edu.  In addition to providing contact information please include any pertinent information about your running experience in high school, road races, trail running, etc.