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Gray leads Saint Mary’s to seventh-place finish

Joe Meixell | Monday, September 10, 2007

In its second event of the season, Saint Mary’s finished seventh at the five-kilometer Aquinas Invitational, placing ahead of Lansing Community College and MIAA foe Olivet.

Grand Valley State won the event, followed by Indiana Tech, Aquinas, Cornerstone, St. Xavier and Sienna Heights.

Belles coach Jackie Bauters was proud of the team’s finish because most of the teams participating were much larger than Saint Mary’s.

“Although it shows we finished 7th overall, the teams above us are NCAA Division II and NAIA teams that we do not ever score against,” she said.

The Belles’ times improved significantly from their first race. The course at the Aquinas Invitational is notoriously flat, and Saint Mary’s believes its hard throughout the week paid dividends. But the team was not satisfied with itstimes and hopes to continue to cut them down.

“There was a mix of feelings after the race. Some girls ran very well and some were slightly disappointed with their times,” Bauters said. “We ran in pace groups for the first two miles, which really seemed to help a number of the girls race better.”

Coming in first for the Belles was senior captain Megan Gray. With a time of 20:09, she took 32nd place overall.

“Megan has many strengths. As a runner, she is patient to see results and has tremendous drive and determination,” Bauters said. “As a captain, she carries herself well and leads by example well. She has really taken a few freshmen under her guidance this year which has been beneficial to such a young team.”

Gray’s leadership seems to be paying off, as three of the top five Belles’ runners were underclassmen. Following closely behind her were sophomore Megan McClowry (20:31), freshman Catie Salyer (21:04), freshman Sam Wieczorek (21:08) and senior Olenka Bilyk (22:21).

For Gray and sophomore Emily Graf, the event was their first of the year.

“I think waiting to race until this week was better physically and mentally for them,” Bauters said.

The Belles will next run Sept. 22 in the MIAA Jamboree at Angola, Ind. The team remains confident and ready to run.

“I feel like we’re in a good spot for this time of the season and leading up to preparing for our Jamboree,” Bauters said.