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.