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SMC Cross Country: Belles finish fifth at Aquinas

Joe Meixell | Monday, September 11, 2006

Saint Mary’s took fifth place at the Aquinas College Invitational Friday afternoon at Comstock River Park – and that’s just fine for Belles coach Jackie Bauters.

Bauters was extremely proud of her team after a week of training that lacked any tapering.

“The team had a great training week last week, and they’re already looking stronger than this point last year, which is very encouraging,” Bauters said.

The Belles certainly had a lot of competition from the other squads. Division II Grand Valley State took the crown by claiming the best possible score of 15 with each of the top five individual finishers and were followed by Aquinas, Cornerstone, St. Xavier and Saint Mary’s, respectively. Rounding out the teams were Sienna Heights, Lansing Community College and Olivet, a fellow MIAA conference member.

“The Aquinas course was very flat and relatively fast,” Saint Mary’ captain Katie O’Brien said. “One big challenge however, was competing against big teams like Grand Valley. The large teams pushed the pace from the beginning, forcing us to adjust our original race strategy.” Fellow captain Meaghan Herbst noted another largely mental obstacle of the race.

“The last mile of the Aquinas course is difficult because it is a repeat of the first mile, which leads to difficulty in staying focused,” she said

Despite these challenges, many of the 25 runners competing for the Belles turned in strong individual times. Megan Gray, rebounding from an injury-plagued season last year, posted a time of 20:03, good for eighth place in the individual medal race. Megan McClowry came in third for the Belles in her first collegiate race with a 20:44. Sara Otto recorded a 20:32, Kelly Biedron a 21:09 and Kelly White finished with a 21:17 to round out the top five for the Belles. Other Belle harriers posted some great times in comparison to their times at Aquinas last year as well. Erin Newsom dropped a minute off last year’s time, while Kim Burkart and Audra Maxbauer dropped over two minutes each.

The Belles have another difficult week of training and races lined up, with Bauters planning to up the intensity in workouts to prepare the team for a full weekend. The majority of the runners will get the opportunity to compete, as the team will be divided to attend two separate meets this coming Friday. Due to a limit on entries at the ND Catholic meet, another group of runners will be traveling down to Terre Haute for the Indiana Intercollegiates.

“[The Indiana Intercollegiates] should be a great opportunity to race against some wonderful Indiana competition,” Bauters said. “We’ll look for improvements at Notre Dame and hopefully for the first years – more experimenting with racing strategy, so they become more comfortable and confident.”

As far as racing strategy goes, the Belles will continue to focus on pacing and teamwork,

“For next week, we want to get the top pack tighter,” O’Brien said. “Our 1-5 runners were really spaced out. We all finished about 10-12 seconds behind the Saint Mary’s runner in front of us. I think Coach Bauters would really like to see us maintain contact during the race and use our teammates to attack runners and as motivation.”