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Belles happy about finish at Regionals

Pat Leonard | Thursday, November 20, 2003

After turning in an improved performance at the MIAA championships by finishing sixth at Albion College, the Saint Mary’s cross country team closed its season Saturday with a 30th place finish at the NCAA Division III Regional Meet at Hanover College.Saint Mary’s scored 775 points and finished 30th out of 34 scoring teams. Mount Union College won first place with 113 points, while Jessie Lair of Calvin College claimed the overall individual championship with a time of 22:13.2.The Belles treated the regional meet as a cool down to its biggest race of the year at the MIAA’s.”There were no expectations for the regional meet,” Saint Mary’s coach Dave Barstis said. “Our goal was to compete well at the conference championship meet, and everyone ran their best race of the season there. The regional meet was just a bonus.”Saint Mary’s sent a limited number of runners to the regional meet, a 6,000-meter race that was longer than the usual l 5,000-meter race the Belles had grown accustomed to running throughout the season.Barstis said the course length was not a factor.”The distance did not have any effect,” he said. “Our training allowed us to compete at both distances. If you ask the [girls], they’ll probably tell you they didn’t even notice a difference.”Freshman Sara Otto led the Belles at Hanover College with an 84th place finish and a time of 25:09.1.Junior Elizabeth Commers (26:16.7) and freshman Katie White (26:48.0) took 146th and 170th place, respectively. Behind them were freshman Erin Nolan (182th place; 27:09.5), senior Jessica Kosco (193rd place; 27:25.9), sophomore Becky Feauto (198th; 27:46.9) and senior captain Jackie Bauters (206th; 28:26.4).Bauters did not have her best race at the conference championships, either. The senior captain developed a respiratory infection prior to the race but still competed at both the MIAA meet and the regional.”Jackie led this team to a great season and had a great career,” Barstis said.Senior leadership was important in a pivotal season for the Belles, but recruiting and the performance of the freshmen have played equally important roles.”This is the most talented first-year class in the history of the program,” Barstis said. “Another [class] like this one, and there will be no limit to how far they can go.”White, one of the top newcomers, had trouble breathing at the regionals due to asthma. She regained herself, however, and had what Barstis described as “perhaps her best race of the year.” The compliment means more alongside this statistic – White finished in the top three Belles runners in every race but one this season.Joining White is a group of freshmen poised to help the team continue in its transition – if everything goes as planned – to being a perennial contender in the MIAA.”Sara Otto, Katie White and Erin Nolan have just started what should be very productive careers,” Barstis said, going down the list of solid first-years. “The two regional team alternates, Ashley Oberst and Meaghan Herbst, are also first-year runners who will be counted on to fill the void left by our departing seniors.”Barstis said the team is excited about next year and is already planning to run together as a group for the remainder of the school year.”The foundation has been built to start our climb up the conference,” Barstis said. “Wewere less than 20 points from fourth place this year. This team is hungry, and I expect a huge improvement next season.”