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SMC Cross Country

SMC sees youth step up in face of adversity

| Friday, May 13, 2016

Despite seeing one its key runners go down early in the season with an injury, Saint Mary’s held its own against tough competition and finished in 15th place at its NCAA regional.

Belles head coach Jackie Bauters said her largest preseason concerns involved working with the new freshmen, as six of the 16 team members were competing at the collegiate level for the first time.

“We had a large group of first years on the team, and you never know how the team will mesh or how they will perform in their first season,” Bauters said. “But this ended up not being a negative at all but very positive for the team. I think losing [freshman Aubrey Penn] to her injury in late September was one of our biggest setbacks. The team really stepped up their game and everyone contributed, but unfortunately she wasn’t able to come back for the end of the season.”

Thirteen personal records were set by Saint Mary’s runners throughout the season. In NCAA regional competition on Nov. 14, the Belles claimed 15th-place and tied for third among the nine MIAA teams competing. This was an improvement from the fourth-place finish they had at the MIAA championships just two weeks earlier.

“Finishing [fourth] at conference was a great accomplishment, but [it was] also bitter sweet since we were so close to standing alone in third place,” Bauters said. “There were many mini accomplishments throughout the year, and individuals had some stellar personal achievements.”

Junior captain Brittany Beeler had a historic season, as she was the top finisher for the Belles in every race of the year and the second runner in program history to earn all-MIAA First Team honors. Bauters commended Beeler as a standout athlete among many this season.

“The team as a whole is full of amazing women — best in a multitude of categories,” Bauters said. “Brittany Beeler led the charge every meet and has been an exemplary role model for her peers in work ethic, persistence and positive attitude. While she is our top performer, she contributes to the team in other ways that are just as — if not even more — valuable.”

Batters said she is looking forward to the future as the team is poised to return with some of its best talent following a strong season.

“This team was really special,” Bauters said. “We had great team chemistry all year, which is not easy. This team was definitely one of my most talented groups as a whole.”

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