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Grey makes history by becoming first runner to make NCAAs

Joe Meixell | Monday, November 13, 2006

Junior Megan Gray won a spot in the record books this past weekend by becoming the first Belle cross country runner to earn a berth to the NCAA Championship.

Her personal best time of 22:52 on the NCAA Regional Championship 6K course at Hanover College was good for a 10th place overall finish.

“She looked strong the entire race and kept passing people from the start to finish,” Belles coach Jackie Bauters said.

In addition to Gray’s time, rounding out the top 5 for the Belles were Sara Otto with a recorded 24:43, Megan McClowry with a 26:01, Caitlin Stevenson with a 26:34, and Alicen Miller with a 26:40.

These times gave the Belles 524 total points for 20th place in the 31 team field, a slight improvement from previous years. Case Western University took the overall team title with only 53 points while the College of Wooster’s Katie Wieferich earned top individual honors with a time of 22:07. MIAA champions Calvin came in second place and will advance to the national meet.

Despite being mostly good weather for the race, the wind started to pick up, affecting most of the runners.

“The strength and conditioning training that we do allowed me to feel strong enough to pass people, especially into the wind,” Gray said. “It was a combination of having the physical upper body strength and mentally staying calm and running my own race.”

Gray’s strong performance is not only a testament to the coaching staff’s dedication, but to her own as well. Gray was unable to compete during her sophomore year due to patella femoral syndrome, and was enrolled in intensive physical therapy less than a year ago after her injury forced her to stop running altogether that summer.

“I just feel that this season has been such a blessing because of all the road blocks that came before it,” Gray said.

Gray says that she will be running mile repeats on Monday and 45-60 minute runs on Tuesday and Thursday, with Wednesday reserved for a speed workout for her NCAA training.

Gray’s goals for the national championship race at Voice of America Park in West Chester, Ohio is under 23 miles, the junior said.

“There will be so many incredible runners there, I just want to well represent Saint Mary’s and my team,” she said.

Despite her individual accomplishments, Gray continues to credit much to her teammates

“I want also to say how much the team has meant to me this season, I love all the girls and everyone has worked so hard,” she said. “I know many of them are planning on traveling down to see me race at Nationals and it makes me so happy because without them, none of this season would be possible.

“I’ll be running that race on Saturday alone, but really they’ll all be with me…it is an honor to represent the team like this.”