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SMC Cross Country: Conference finish propels Belles to NCAA Championships

Maija Gustin | Friday, November 12, 2010

The Belles secured their highest-ever conference finish at the MIAA Championships and are ready to carry that momentum into the NCAA Division III Regionals.

Led by sophomore Julia Kenney, Saint Mary’s followed Calvin and Hope in the MIAA Championships for a third-place finish.

“Securing third place in the conference was huge for us as a team,” Belles coach Jackie Bauters said. “It was a big confidence booster and allowed the team to see what their true potential is individually and collectively.”

Though Bauters says the team has had “positive feelings and success” all year, she believes the MIAA finish will help propel them forward going into regionals.

“I believe it has given them more drive to push themselves,” Bauters said. “Everyone learned something different coming out of Championships that needs to be applied to the regional meet, so they have been working on their area of improvement. The team is really working on just putting all the pieces together to run the best race possible. They have all of the tools and work in place, so it’s really about applying the race strategy to get them to the finish line knowing it was a smart race, and they don’t have anything left.”

The Belles have several standout leaders and runners to thank for their recent success.

“I think what really distinguishes this year form other years is the cohesiveness of the team and their shared vision,”

Bauters said. “Our captains, [senior] Catie Salyer, [senior] Lauren Easton and [junior] Joanne Almond have really helped to keep the team focused on our goals and disciplined throughout the season.”

She added, “That being said, this team is unique because everyone plays an active role in our success.”

Bauters noted several top performances from the Belles at the championships and predicts improvement going into regionals.

“Julia [Kenney] is looking to make a run at qualifying for nationals,” Bauters said. “Everything in practice says she has what it takes to compete for a position, but it is going to be tough, so we’re looking to see her shine whether she makes the cut or not.”

“Joanne is ready to have a standout race,” Bauters said. “We haven’t even seen the tip of her potential yet, and I feel confident the mental preparation she’s been doing will lead to a great race.”

The final five should combine with Kenney and Almond for a tremendous race.

“[Sophomore] Emma [Baker], Catie [Salyer], [senior] Sam [Wassel], [sophomore] Angela [Nebesny] and [senior] Clare [McVey] all look primed to have season best so I’m hoping they work together like they do in practice and we’ll have a successful day,” Bauters said.

Bauters looks to continue building records for the Belles at regionals.

“As a team our highest finish at regionals was 15th,” she said. “Our goal is to be better that and my prediction is we will.”

The Belles head to Hope College Saturday to take on the NCAA Division III Regionals.