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SMC CROSS COUNTRY: Belles eager for Windy City race

Ken Fowler | Friday, September 30, 2005

The Belles have four freshmen who have already demonstrated an ability to score points in league meets.

They have two veteran runners who are running close to their personal records.

And they have one of their favorite races this weekend.

For Saint Mary’s, the outlook is positive for the 50-team Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational on the campus of Loyola-Chicago Saturday.

“I think we’re prepared for a race of that size,” head coach Jackie Bauters said. “The girls are really excited. It’s a really fun meet.”

Saint Mary’s has competed in the meet every year since Bauters, a 2004 Saint Mary’s alumna, ran for the team.

“It was probably one of my favorite races to go to,” Bauters said. “It’s just a high-energy race.”

The Belles will enter the field coming off a fifth-place performance in the MIAA Jamboree last weekend.

Sara Otto and Becky Feauto led the team in their solid performance with times just over 20 minutes each, and Bauters expects their performances to continue to improve

“Last week, they were … getting to that 20 minute barrier that … lurks there for a lot of girls,” Bauters said of her two top runners. “They had really good weeks practicing.”

Bauters isn’t just looking for good performances from her veterans, though.

She’s hoping for continued success from the freshmen.

Last week, four of Saint Mary’s top seven finishers were first-year runners.

“The freshman have to continue to step up and show constant improvement,” Bauters said. “I think they’ll be right up there with our first few runners.”

The course of the race has more hills than the ones the Belles have run on so far this year, so times may be up, but Bauters expects the team to stay competitive.

She said the Belles will fare well if they work as a collective unit, as they did last week.

“A lot of positives came out of that race because we did have some girls pack together,” she said. “I’m really happy about that. I feel people ran really smart races for themselves [last] weekend.”

Saint Mary’s will compete in the women’s Gold race, one of several races on the day.

The Belles will run against teams from Divisions II, III and the NAIA, and teams from Division I will compete in a separate race.

Bauters said her team enjoys the atmosphere of having Division I schools at the meet but doesn’t think it influences the way the Belles run.

“It’s fun to be there and have them all there, but it doesn’t help us or hurt us,” she said of the top-tier schools.