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SMC Cross Country: Belles send runners to two meets

Becki Dorner | Monday, September 18, 2006

Saint Mary’s was busy this weekend, with the team divided on Friday between the National Catholic Championships at Notre Dame and the Indiana Intercollegiate Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

At the National Catholic Cross Country Invitational, the Belles came in last out of 34 teams. Notre Dame finished in first on the familiar course, followed by Marquette in second place. The individual winner was Notre Dame junior Sunni Olding, with a time of 17:51.

The top finisher for the Belles at the meet was sophomore Caitlin Brodmerkel with a time of 23:19.

Belles captain Meaghan Herbst said Saint Mary’s was not worried about its team finish at the National Catholics, a meet that attracts several Division I schools every year.

“We did not even focus on the competition for this meet,” Herbst said. “For us, the meet does not count since we are not running against other teams in the MIAA, but it is a good chance to get another race in for the experience and training.”

The experience forced the Belles to practice pacing, specifically not going out too fast during the first mile.

Running in the 34-team field also gave the runners a chance to practice avoiding getting lost in a large crowd.

At the Indiana Intercollegiate meet hosted by Indiana State, the Belles finished 21st out of 26 on the Terre Haute course that will host the Division I national championships later this year.

Indiana finished first with help from its top finisher, Jessica Gall, who clocked a time of 17:37, and Valparaiso came in second.

The top finisher for the Belles was Megan Gray, who recorded a 20:13.

She was followed a minute later by Sara Otto (21:13), Megan McClowery (21:45), Alicen Miller (22:24) and Kelly Biedron (22:26), who rounded out the top five for Saint Mary’s.

The field at Terre Haute was one of the most competitive in the nation, but Otto said that did not faze the Belles.

“It can be intimidating to toe the start line next to Division I and Division II schools where there are runners competing on scholarships,” she said. “However, we can gain confidence knowing we aren’t running for money – we race because this is what we love to do.”

Running at Terre Haute gave the Belles some additional challenges too, Otto said.

“Running against Division I and Division II schools is always challenging and it’s easy to get pulled out too fast,” she said. “The team was running tired and definitely against some of the strongest competition, like Indiana, Purdue, ISU and DePauw. It was good especially for the first years to see what racing that kind of caliber is like.”

The Belles also got the chance to scope out some fellow Division III opponents like Manchester and Hanover, who finished 19th and 20th, respectively.

In addition to those presented by the other teams, the Belles had to deal with challenges from within. Many of the runners were dealing with colds, soreness and injuries, including captain Katie White, who couldn’t finish due to shin splints.

“The weather also was an issue,” Belles coach Jackie Bauters said. “I think the weather played a factor this weekend, having it so cool and damp all week, only to race in 85 degrees and sunny.”

Dehydration became a problem for more than a few competitors.

The next contest for the Belles is the MIAA Jamboree hosted by Hope College on Saturday.

“Our focus for Monday will be on having a good hill workout to help prepare for Hope’s course, and throughout the week, we will pay closer attention to getting enough sleep, staying hydrated and eating healthy foods,” Otto said.

Herbst said the team will ease up on workouts to avoid injury this week.

“Next week if a very important race for us so we are going to focus on having fresh legs this week,” Herbst said. “We will not be tapering, but we will be in the pool one day this week to save our legs from some wear and tear.”

Senior Katie White stressed that even though workouts will be softer, the team’s intensity will remain high.

“This week we want to keep our intensity up during our workouts while trying to minimize stress, maximize sleep and stay healthy for one of the most important races of our season,” White said.

Strategy-wise, Otto said the Belles will continue to focus on their team goal of closing the gaps among the top five runners, although it may take some time.

“Closing the gap for the top runners will not be easy, but it certainly can be done,” she said. “I think right now our bodies are at various levels of health and training, and I suspect we will see the time gaps becoming much smaller in the next few weeks.”

Bauters said the Belles have to fix mental mistakes before next week.

“More than anything this week, we’ll work on staying mentally tough through the race,” Bauters said. “We had some setbacks this weekend due to losing focus and falling apart mentally more than physically. The team is coming together as a group nicely though and hopefully that spirit will help carry us to a good race this weekend.”