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Belles hope to improve on last year’s third-place finish

Cory Bernard | Friday, September 2, 2011

After three years of finishing just outside the top three in the MIAA standings, Saint Mary’s finally broke through and finished the 2010 season in third place.

This season, the Belles are poised to match or exceed last year’s conference finish.

The Belles ran in the exhibition Sandhill Crane Trail Race in Vandalia, Mich. on Aug. 27 and will begin their season in earnest Saturday at the Wabash Hokum Karem in Crawfordsville, Ind.

Senior captain Joanne Almond said the team raced well at Sandhill Crane Trail and feels ready to begin the new season.

“Our exhibition race last Saturday went very well,” Almond said. “We had run the course before and all of our returners were able to see how much stronger they had grown over the summer. The race also gave us an idea of how we could work together in races later this season. I think that everybody left the course feeling fired up for this fall.”

The Belles will race in an unusual format Saturday. The Hokum Karem, hosted by Wabash College, places runners on two-person teams and adds a relay aspect to the cross country race.

Each team will run a total of six miles. One member will run a mile before handing the baton to her teammate, who will then run another mile before returning the baton, and so forth.

The Belles enjoy beginning the year at Wabash, Almond said.

“The Wabash Hokum Karem has always been a great opportunity for our team to re-adjust to the race atmosphere,” she said. “Many people on our team have not raced since last fall, and the unique relay format of the Hokum Karem is a great way to get used to traveling and to transition into some of our more competitive races.”

Almond said this year’s veteran-laden squad has what it takes to make 2011 even better than 2010.

“As a captain, I know that the competition for the third spot in the MIAA will be fierce, but I am confident that our team will take this challenge seriously,” Almond said. “We have been talking amongst ourselves and looking for ways to improve ever since our third place finish last year.”