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SMC Cross Country:Belles head to MIAA meet

Matt Gamber | Friday, October 19, 2007

Saint Mary’s coach Jackie Bauters could have her pick of classic sports clichés to describe her team’s Oct. 27 MIAA championship meet. The meet, after all, will decide whether this season will be the Belles best in school history.

But rather than making the meet seem “do or die,” as one cliché goes, Bauters has downplayed its importance.

“I’d really like to approach conference like all our other meets,” Bauters said. “I feel like sometimes athletes make the race into more than it needs to be and are afraid of how they are going to perform. My goal for the team is to go into the meet as mentally prepared and confident as every other meet this season. If we can do this, I know we will be successful.”

Momentum is certainly on the Belles’ side. They have finished first and third in their last two meets, respectively. Senior Megan Gray captured the individual title in both those meets and finished sixth overall at the MIAA Jamboree on Sept. 22.

The Belles took fourth at the Jamboree, which determines one third of the conference standings. The other two thirds will be determined at the MIAA championship. If the Belles can finish of fourth or better in that race, Saint Mary’s will secure at least fourth place overall in the MIAA, surpassing last year’s fifth-place finish as the best in program history.

“The girls are physically prepared to race well, and this last week [of practice] is just maintaining the routine and getting in the last confidence booster,” Bauters said. “This is going to be a very interesting meet. There are usually mixed emotions because this is always an exciting meet but also the last of the season for some girls.”

Perhaps the biggest reason for the Belles’ recent success has been the progression of the pack behind Gray. Consistent efforts from freshmen Sam Wieczorek and Catie Salyer, sophomore Megan McClowry and senior Olenka Bilyk have given Saint Mary’s a deep team that could perform well at the championships.

“I feel like the team has really improved across the board, and our four through eight runners have stepped up as a unit,” Bauters said. “Even if we end up at fourth overall in the conference, we’ve improved since last year in leaps and bounds beyond what the ranking can show.”