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SMC CROSS COUNTRY: Belles set to participate in the Catholic Championships

Ken Fowler | Friday, September 16, 2005

The Belles look at today’s National Catholic Cross Country Championships at the Burke Memorial Golf Course on the campus of Notre Dame as a race with little impact on the overall success of the season, Saint Mary’s coach Jackie Bauters said Thursday.

Bauters said that her team hopes to run strong, but views the meet as a fun experience rather than a crucial competition.

“This is a real fun race for us, because it has such higher competition [than the other meets on the Belles’ schedule],” Bauters said. “It’s kind of like a home meet for us in a lot of ways – we have a lot of families come out for it. We look for that [tough] competition, but we don’t stress it.”

The meet will feature teams in two categories – Division I and the College Division. Saint Mary’s, a Division-III in regular NCAA competition, will participate in the College Division.

Bauters said that the multi-division field is good competition for the team, but also has its drawbacks.

“They’ve restricted the number you can enter to 15, when we usually carry 24 runners,” she said.

“And historically, we don’t have our best times on this course because we are just so much further in the pack because it’s so crowded.”

Despite the problems, though, several Belles have an opportunity to make an impact in the race.

Junior Sara Otto led the team in last week’s Aquinas College Invitational, and should once again be one of the Belles’ top finishers, Bauters said.

“Sara had a tremendous race … for the beginning of the season,” she said. “She, along with a couple of our upperclassmen, will have a great season.”

Hopes are also high for sophomore Elizabeth Johnson, a sophomore who joined the team only this season.

Johnson was fifth among the Belles in the Aquinas meet with a time of 21:25, just 1:09 off Otto’s team-leading 20:16.

Saint Mary’s will be the only team in the MIAA competing, and that has Bauters less concerned about the outcome of the race than with league meets.

“It’s not something I look for as a true indication as a team,” she said. “Last week was a really big meet for us because we had MIAA competition in the meet and we did really well.”