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SMC CROSS COUNTRY: Belles top the field in 21 squad event

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Going into Friday’s Eagle Invitational at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill., Saint Mary’s was just hoping to gauge how well it was prepared for a longer, six kilometer race.

Coming out, the Belles have to be ecstatic after finishing first among the meet’s 21 teams. Senior captain Megan Gray also claimed the individual title by finishing in 23:59.2 in 87-degree heat.

“The girls were just amazing,” coach Jackie Bauters said. “Despite the heat, they ran very well. This is the toughest course [Benedictine’s coach Jon Wolcott] has ever made for the invite, with two big hills in the first mile … so the girls ran very well.

Though Bauters had expressed some curiosity, if not concern, about the Belles prospects in the longer race (most races are 5K), they certainly answered any doubts that might have been by edging second-place St. Joseph’s by 10 points.

The Belles had seven runners finish in the top 20: freshman Sam Wieczorek (fifth, 25:21.2), freshman Catie Salyer (ninth, 26:00), sophomore Megan McClowry (11th, 26:15), senior Olenka Bilyk (26:21), freshman Stephanie Waite (26:44) and freshman Clare McVey (26:51).

The significance of Friday’s performance is not lost on Bauters, since the Belles’ conference championship race on Oct. 27 will also be a 6K.

“The girls responded pretty well [to both the heat and the course length],” Bauters said. “It was hard to tell if the slower times were the heat, the course or the longer race, but I’m thinking they can handle the race length adjustment.”