A Race to the End

posted in: Fall, Sports | 0

Cross Country teams fight for success this ongoing season

   With strong returners on the women’s side and a promising young men’s side, the Boxer cross-country team has competed well so far this season. But they have not yet crossed the finish line.

   Structured with regular season meets throughout September and October, the cross-country season moves into November with a competition at the Northwest Conference Championships—which, in turn, determines who goes onto Nationals. Both the men’s and women’s teams have encountered challenges that have not only prepared them for the upcoming year but also positioned them to conclude this year on a high note.

   Through the progression of the season, the women runners have shown individual improvement, yet the final piece of connecting as a team at the same meet is what has been the main struggle of this season. (Although an individual sport in many ways, cross-country is scored as a team, with each finishing position adding a point, and lowest score winning.)

   One of the most impactful runners on the team is senior Annie Berry, who has been one of the Boxer’s most recognizable leaders this season. Coming off of her “breakout” season last year, Berry has displayed similar results this year as well, twice earning Northwest Conference Cross Country student athlete of the week. Some of Berry’s season’s highlight performances included being the first NWC runner to cross the finish line while securing an 18th overall finish at the George Oja Invitational. Furthermore, she stood out as the sole Boxer to be named to the All-Conference second team for cross-country this season, following her impressive ninth place finish at the Conference Championships.

   To start off the first race of the season our Boxer’s competed at the Linfield Harrier Classic. For the women’s team they scored an overall of 172 points which placed them in sixth place; they were the highest placing NCAA Division III team in the meet. Berry was the leader for her team, placing 30th and was the first Northwest Conference runner to make it across the line. At the same Linfield Harrier Classic meet, the men’s team placed 8th place and earned a total of 242 points that day. This was one of their best season openers in the past six years. 

   With the success and improvement on the women’s side, the men had hoped for similar results, yet have fallen short this season. “On the men’s side,” Head Coach Bailee Krings explains, “this is a rebuilding year for us and there is an overall lack of experience. A majority of our runners on the team who were going into the conference meet had never raced an 8k until this season.”

   At the Conference Championships the Boxers hoped to really connect and unify as a team to earn the result they were hoping for. Coach Krings had hoped that they would’ve clutched 2nd place, or even 1st place at that meet on the women’s side. But it wasn’t to be, as some of the runners had some off days. “We should’ve been a second place finish for sure,” Krings explained. “Third place was disappointing, and it was honestly our worst race of the entire season as a team.”

   The finishing team results for the women were third place with 98 points and the men finished ninth place with 258 points. The disappointment and frustration the women felt with their performance turned into motivation and determination to put the pieces together for their next meet in California for NCAA West Regionals. Coach Krings explained how the next meet is very important and thinks the team will finally come together to move forward. “On an individual level I think we have women who are capable of making it to nationals and if X amount of those go then we most likely will go as a team” she expressed. “I am very optimistic.”

   Going into the next year, Coach Krings believes that the success and strengths of the program will continue to build. “On both the men’s and women’s sides the runners have really good work ethic,” Krings explained. “The team is really competitive and do their best to prepare in the off season for the upcoming year.”

   After this season the men’s team will lose three seniors and the rest of the team looks to compete more next year after gaining the needed experience throughout this season. Coach Krings believes that the men will step up and use their whole year of training this year to put into next season’s results. On the women’s side, the team is losing four out of five scoring seniors. The big loss of these runners will leave an impact on the team and leave room for returning players to step up into those roles. — Olivia Azzollini


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