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Belles ready for final test of season

Pat Leonard | Friday, October 31, 2003

Each meet has been a test. Every practice, a method of training.

For the Saint Mary’s cross country team, the entire season functions as a road of preparation to one final race – the MIAA Championships.

The Belles travel to Alma College this Saturday to compete in the annual conference championship race, one in which they placed seventh out of eight teams last year. But Saint Mary’s has shown great improvement since.

The Belles opened this season finishing fifth out of 12 teams in the Heidelberg Invitational, sixth in the Aquinas College Invitational and sixth in the MIAA Jamboree this season.

The coach believes runners should push work but not concern themselves with statistics or times. Instead, he emphasizes a gradual mental and physical progression that should culminate at the conference championships.

“The focus from day one has been Nov. 1,” coach Dave Barstis said. “Throughout the season I’ve used the meets as training runs. I viewed them as nothing more than another day of training. Places meant nothing. I was looking at progress and viewing it as a workout.”

Barstis is pleased with what he sees.

“The team has progressed as I had hoped, and the Eagle Invitational is a good indication of that,” he said. “We used that as a trial run or test to see how we were going to do in the [MIAA] championships.”

Saint Mary’s finished fourth overall at the Benedictine University Eagle Invitational, with six Belles runners finishing in the top 50 at the meet.

“Benedictine is the first time we actually raced,” Barstis said. “We planned it that way. We prepared for it like we would prepare for the championships.”

The MIAA championships begin at 11 a.m Saturday.