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SMC Cross Country: Gray finishes 133rd in NCAA Championship

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, December 5, 2006

This article was supposed to run three weeks ago but did not due to an editing error.

Megan Gray ended her record-breaking season Nov. 18 at the NCAA Division III National Championships, finishing 133rd overall with a time of 25:14 in the 6K event at the Voice of America Park Wilmington College.

Middlebury College took the team championship with 144 points against a field of 32 teams. Willamette junior Sarah Zerzan finished first in the field of 279 runners with a time of 22:31.

“The times were slow across the board due to the mud,” Belles coach Jackie Bauters said.

The rainy conditions at the event slowed down Saint Mary’s only representative in the event. But Gray remained optimistic despite the rain-affected time.

“It was a tough day to run, but it was an honor to be able to run in the National meet and while I felt I could have run a better race, I was lucky to have teammates, coaches, friends and family there to support me,” Gray said.

Despite the conditions, Bauters was still impressed with the finish of her only runner in the race.

“[Gray] looked good when I saw her right before the [first] mile, as though she was progressing well and in a good position,” Bauters said.

But due in part to the course conditions, Gray fell just after the one mile mark.

“I think it kind of knocked her mental game a little bit,” Bauters said. “While she didn’t really slow down at this point, she usually starts gaining ground throughout the race and was not able to.”

Nine of Gray’s teammates made the trip to show their support, helping Gray realize the tremendous accomplishment of even making it to the national level.

“They helped me realized [and] remember that I was running with the best runners in the entire country – it was an honor,” Gray said.

Gray’s accomplishments were indeed record-breaking for the Belles this season. The junior was the leading runner for the Belles in all nine races she ran in during the 2006 season. It was a season of firsts for Saint Mary’s and Gray as she became the first Belle runner to earn first-team all-MIAA honors after placing sixth in the conference’s championship race three weeks ago.

In addition, she became the first Saint Mary’s runner to win an overall individual title when she crossed the finish line first with a time of 18:42 at the Manchester Invitational. Finally, she became the first Belle to qualify for nationals after her 10th place finish at the Great Lake Regional Championships, where she ran the 6K course in 22:52.

“I’m very proud of her and all her accomplishments this season. I think it gave her a good idea of what to look for next year, and another trip to the NCAA Championships” said Bauters.