The Women’s Thunder Cross Country team finished fourth at the 2017 NCAA Division III Midwest Regional on Saturday at Rock Island’s Saukie Golf Course. UW-Eau Claire took first with 59 points. WashU scored 75 points in second place and UW-La Crosse finished third scoring 109 points. Wheaton scored fourth place with 126 points followed by Chicago, rounding out the top five with 131 points. UW-River Fall, UW-Platteville, St. Norbert, Illinois Wesleyan and UW-Stevens Point finished close behind to make the top ten.
Saturday’s race featured 263 runners from which UChicago’s Khia Kurtenbach finished first in 20:41.3. Close behind in second place, WashU’s Paige Lawler finished the 6K course in 20:46.4. Wheaton freshman Hannah Roeske scored the top performance for the Thunder in third place with a time of 20:51.8. Thunder senior Rebecca Marcotte finished next for Wheaton, placing 22nd in 21:35.0 and sophomore Aryn Embretson placed 26th with a time of 21:40.5. Junior Ellie Hawthorne took 37th place in 22:03.2 and junior Megan Bailey rounded out the Wheaton top five by posting a time of 22:04.1 in 37th place.
Wheaton’s women were able to utilize the fast course to run personal bests. “Saturday provided the perfect racing conditions for us, and we knew going in it was going to be a good day to run fast! The course is a fast course because it’s pretty flat and the ground was hard. I think we got out a little slower than we were expecting, mostly because of how many people there were and how difficult it was to move through the pack. But overall, everyone ran really well and gave what they had on Saturday. Everyone took a step forward setting a new PR which is really exciting,” Hawthorne told us. Bailey added, “I know we all gave it our all! We all ended with significant PRs, so that’s always great! It was a great course … just waiting for us to run some fast times. We normally pack run, but from the start our packs were broken up. We are stronger when we run together but this weekend we all fought the whole time, to run the best we could even though it was not what we are used to doing.” Coach Walford also said that he felt both women and men’s teams competed well.
The girls expressed that though they did feel a bit of extra pressure from the regional meet, it didn’t affect their races too much. Embretson told us, “I wasn’t too nervous because the coaches kept telling us that we didn’t have to do anything special to qualify for nationals, we just needed to do what we’ve done all season. We only needed to have confidence in our abilities and that really took the pressure off. We’ve been able to improve because we all train together and in the races we are able to move up in the race by pushing each other and working together. We’ve all gotten stronger because of it.” Bailey added that she avoided nervousness by remembering not to doubt the ability God has given her and her team.
Because they placed in the top five, the Women’s Cross Country team will be running at the NCAA Division III Women’s Cross Country Championships next Saturday in Elsah, Ill. Their trip to the Division III Championships will be Wheaton’s first since 2014. The whole team can’t wait for this opportunity. Hawthorne said, “Looking forward to nationals, nerves come again because it’s a bigger stage, but it’s also just another great opportunity to get to run! We ran this course at pre-nationals and it’s a pretty tough course, but the cooler weather and excitement of nationals will hopefully help it feel a lot better. We have worked hard all season and it is fun to see those efforts pay off by getting the opportunity to run at nationals.” Embretson expressed her desire to truly take in the whole experience and enjoy racing with her team for the last time this season. Bailey added, “I’m most excited to run alongside my teammates and run for God’s glory! I don’t feel nervous, because I know my God goes before me and carries me when I think I can’t run any faster. I hope to just have fun and enjoy one more week of training with my teammates.”