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Belles cross country takes sixth at MIAA Championship

Saint Mary’s cross country began their postseason on Saturday morning as they made the trek to Shepherd, Michigan for the MIAA Conference Championship. The Belles came ready to compete, as each of Saint Mary’s top ten runners posted personal best times in what was easily the team’s best performance of the season to date. The effort was enough to earn sixth place among a field that featured several nationally-ranked teams at the Division III level.

The Belles went into Saturday’s race with a strong sense of familiarity regarding their opponents, having faced many of them throughout the regular season. All nine MIAA teams raced at the DIII Preview Meet earlier in the October, and Saint Mary’s battled several conference foes at its most recent meet, the Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble.

With a conference title on the line, the Belles relied on a veteran-heavy lineup to guide the team, as each of their five scoring positions were comprised of upperclassmen. Junior Haley Greene led the way for the Belles, finishing in 36th place with a time of 23:36 in the 6k race. Amanda Tracy, also a junior, was just behind, taking 38th place in 23:40.2.

Needing three more strong performances to complete the team’s scoring, a trio of seniors, racing in their final MIAA Championship, answered the call. Angela Bannan finished in 52nd place with a time of 24:13.5. Soon after, Anna DeMars established a huge new personal record, topping her previous best by more than 45 seconds, finishing in 24:45.5. DeMars claimed 65th place for the Belles. Alexa Zeese was the fifth Saint Mary’s finisher, and her time of 24:49.3 earned 67th place. The race highlighted the Belles’ impressive depth, as several more Saint Mary’s runners finished near the team’s top five. Sophomore Susanna Bernovich, freshman Isabelle Auch, and freshman Carly Davis were close behind Zeese while finishing in 69th, 71st, and 73rd, respectively.

No. 24 Hope ultimately won the MIAA Championship with a score of 39 points. No. 20 Calvin and No. 35 Trine were hot on their heels with 50 and 52, and these teams established themselves as the clear class of the conference. Saint Mary’s finished in sixth place with 172 points. The Belles’ performance was a true team effort; each of the five teams that placed ahead of them had a runner in the top eight, while Saint Mary’s top finisher came in 36th. The Belles’ ability to remain competitive with these teams showed the strength of their team from top to bottom.

Following breakout performances from most of its roster, Saint Mary’s will look to carry its momentum into the final stages of the season. Next up for the Belles is the NCAA Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 12 in Holland, Michigan. The regional meet will feature every MIAA team as well as a host of other programs from around the Midwest, and the Belles will be aiming to improve upon last year’s 22nd-place finish. After Saturday’s race, it appears that Saint Mary’s is peaking at the right time and is well-prepared to continue its postseason push.

Contact Matthew at mcrow@nd.edu.

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