For the second time this season, the Belles seemed a footstep behind their goal in an MIAA tournament.
Saint Mary’s finished fourth in the MIAA Championship for the third consecutive season, equaling the program’s highest conference ranking. No. 1 Calvin took first place in the MIAA for the 21st time in 22 years with a perfect team score of 15.
“I am so proud of everything the team has accomplished and how hard they have worked to get there,” Belles coach Jackie Bauters said. “I’m excited to see how they do at regionals.”
Belles freshman Julia Kenney lead the team with a 24:47.1 to finish 24th overall, but the story of the day for Saint Mary’s was senior captain Megan McClowry’s unexpected stumble. McClowry, who has finished first or second for the Belles in each tournament this season, slipped to third on the squad with a 25:34.0 after a fall cost her valuable time and position.
The fact that Saint Mary’s trailed third-place Adrian by only eight points made McClowry’s stumble loom all the larger. In addition, the Belles competed without junior Catie Salyer, who missed the meet due to sickness.
“It was disappointing to be so close to third and not beat Adrian,” Bauters said. “The team ran well. People really stepped up, [but] I know [the fall] was difficult for [McClowry] as a senior captain.”
The Bulldogs finished third with a team score of 112, ahead of Saint Mary’s 120 and behind the Knights and Hope. Adrian’s narrow victory is all the more remarkable when considering that the team did not have an upperclassman at the meet.
While the Belles’ fourth-place finish tied the program high, Saint Mary’s had made beating the Bulldogs a priority, and to lose so narrowly made the result particularly stinging.
“It’s bittersweet,” Bauters said. “I think it’s great that the team has stayed at fourth while the other teams around us have fluctuated so much. I think we are consistent and have been able to develop a strong team. Adrian is at a great advantage over us with indoor and outdoor track as well as full time coaches which make recruiting easier.”
Behind Kenney, sophomore Joanne Almond finished 36th overall with a time of 25:23.9. McClowry finished 39th overall, while junior Claire McVey ended up in 43rd, finishing the course in 25:54.4 Rounding out the scoring harriers for the Belles was junior Samantha Wieczorek in 25:59.0, good enough for 45th overall.
Saint Mary’s will have a week off to prepare for the NCAA Division III Regionals on Nov. 14 in Terre Haute, Ind.