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SMC Cross Country: Belles take fourth at MIAA for best season ever

Matt Gamber | Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It’s official – this season has been the best in Saint Mary’s history.

With a fourth-place finish in Saturday’s MIAA championship meet, the Belles secured the fourth spot in the final season standings, surpassing last year’s fifth-place finish as tops in the program’s history, and accomplished a goal that has been the team’s focus all year.

Senior Megan Gray led the Belles, as she has in every meet for the past two years, finishing second overall and grabbing first team all-conference honors for the second consecutive season.

“I tend to go into each race with the attitude that it’s just another run,” Gray said. “When the race started, I just ran how I felt, and I felt good, strong – and it worked out well for me.”

Belles coach Jackie Bauters praised Gray’s performance, especially considering its setting in a crucial meet.

“Megan ran an amazing race,” Bauters said. “I knew she wanted to break into the top five after finishing sixth at the [MIAA] Jamboree, but I wasn’t sure how big a leap she’d make. It was exciting to watch her take the lead of the pack and never lose it. She’s in unbelievable shape heading into the regional meet.”

Solid finishes from freshmen Sam Wieczorek (22nd place), Catie Salyer (23rd) and Stephanie Waite (27th) and sophomore Megan McClowry (25th) allowed Saint Mary’s to pull away from fifth-place Kalamazoo, while finishing behind Calvin, the dominant conference champion, Albion and Hope.

Though MIAA competition has come to a close, nine Belles runners will continue their seasons by training for the NCAA Division III Regionals, held at Calvin on Nov. 10, with the hopes of qualifying for the national meet Nov. 17.

“I’d love to qualify again, but I just want to have a good race and feel strong,” Gray said. “I’d say the same for the other girls on the team – it’s a 3.67 mile run that I know they can rock, and they will because they can.”

Regardless of what happens from here, the conference success the team shared will not be lost on Gray – or the rest of the program, for that matter.

“I can’t stress enough how amazing [Bauters] has been as a coach,” Gray said. “I’ve been on this team for four years and have just seen it blossom under her control. I’m so excited to see where this program will be headed in the future.”