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Belles to encounter first major test of season

Joe Meixell | Friday, September 24, 2004

The Belles have high expectations for themselves concerning this weekend’s MIAA Jamboree at Hope College. It will be the first conference meet for the women and one of only two conference races for the season.

Coach Dave Barstis said that although he wants the girls to peak for the championship race at the end of October, he is hoping for a “mini-peak” Saturday.

“I’m looking for everyone to have their best race of the season so far,” Barstis said.

He also said that no one has seen what the Belles runners are capable of doing. This is the first race that the team will actually race and not treat as a workout. The past five weeks have been a challenge for the runners, who have used every meet up until now to prepare for this critical competition.

Barstis is hoping for his team, who placed sixth in the conference for the 2003 season, to come out of the conference championship with a fourth-place finish or better. This weekend will account for one third of the points that will decide the final standings.

The team knows they have a challenge ahead of them. Calvin College and Hope will most likely dominate the conference, with Kalamazoo also vying for a top spot. The Belles know that it will require a certain amount of mental discipline in order to outrun last season’s fourth and fifth-place finishers.

“It’s going to be tough because I expect Albion and Alma to give us a fight,” Barstis said.

Everyone on the team is confident that her work so far will pay off in the upcoming weeks. Megan Gray, who has finished first for the Belles in every race so far, doesn’t doubt that their preparation has prepared them physically as well as mentally.

“I know that all of our training is designed to help us peak at the right time,” Gray said. “Running is a very mental sport, I’m confident that what the team has done so far will help us later on.”

In order to come out of Saturday’s race in a good position in the conference standings, Saint Mary’s will draw on the five grueling weeks of practice leading up to this race.

“This week of training will be light so the team can recharge,” Barstis said.

He is confident the goals that they have worked toward as a team will give them the edge in this race. Gray agreed, noting their ability to run as a team has done nothing but help them on the course.

“It’s really awesome when we are racing and come up to one another, we say good job and encourage each other,” she said. “We’re competitive with each other because we know that will help the team do better.”

The consensus of the team is that they are willing to do whatever it takes to help the team do well. The Belles will have their first opportunity Saturday to see if the preparations they have made are enough to make them serious contenders for at least a fourth-place finish this fall.