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SMC Cross Country: Gray wins race as Belles take third

Becki Dorner | Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Belles head into the MIAA Championship meet this coming Saturday in Alma, Mich. with renewed confidence after an impressive performance in the Manchester College Invite Oct. 14 that wrapped up the team’s regular season.

The Belles finished third of nine teams, behind Cornerstone and Manchester College, and had two runners place in the top 10. Saint Mary’s junior Megan Gray won the individual title with a time of 18:42 for the 5K distance and teammate Sara Otto earned sixth place with a recorded 19:41.

Coach Jackie Bauters stressed the magnitude of Gray’s feat.

“Megan ran a phenomenal race and was the first overall win for a Saint Mary’s runner – quite the accomplishment,” she said.

Rounding out the top five for the Belle runners were Megan McClowry with a 20:35, Caitlin Stevenson with a 21:05 and Alicen Miller with a 21:17.

The Belles ran some of their best times of the year despite being tested by the varied terrain of the Manchester course, a mix of field, woods, flat and rolling landscapes.

Bauters said she was impressed with her squad’s fitness level.

“The team looked stronger than most other teams during the second half of the race and ran well together,” she said.

In preparation for the MIAA meet, many of the team members remained near South Bend for fall break, which Bauters believes “benefited the team and allowed them to stay more in the flow of the season, rather than being totally out of sync a week before the championships.”

For the final week of practices, Bauters said the team element will be emphasized, with the runners discussing team goals for the race and how to improve the teamwork that served them well in the Manchester Invite.

The Belles hope to improve on last year’s fifth place finish in the conference standings. Last year at the MIAA Championships, Otto was the squad’s best runner with a time of 24:15 on the 6K course. Fellow senior Katie White recorded her best finish last year at the MIAA championship as well, clocking in at 24:45 to finish 33rd.

Bauters is optimistic about the conference meet this time around.

“This season has been wonderful thus far and I believe the team is ready for a great race this Saturday,” she said.