Men’s cross country wins another title, women finish fourth

| Senior Sports Editor

Making conference history Saturday in Pittsburgh, the Washington University men’s cross-country team raced to its fourth straight University Athletic Association title.

The Bears, ranked No. 2 nationally, broke the record shared by themselves and New York University for consecutive conference championships. Their five top-12 individual finishes secured a point total of 26, easily securing the win over second-place NYU’s 49.

As they have all season, junior Drew Padgett and senior Kevin Sparks formed a one-two punch at the top. It was also a one-two punch for the entire men’s field as Padgett won the individual title and Sparks, last year’s conference champion, finished second. The Bears have claimed the individual champion for four straight years in addition to the team title.

In the women’s race, junior Lucy Cheadle won the individual title for the second year in a row, establishing yet another Wash. U. streak.

“She ran really patient,” head coach Jeff Stiles said of Cheadle. The University of Chicago’s Catherine Young led the whole way, Stiles said, only for Cheadle to catch up to the leader by the three-mile mark. With about 400 meters to go, Cheadle “took off and put eight seconds on [Young.]”

Cheadle said she was trying to preserve energy before a hill in the final mile of the 6-kilometer race—then she got into her “kick.”

“I was just trying to finish hard and really think about the team score because she was from UChicago, which is one of our big rivals,” Cheadle said.

For the men, senior Michael Ellenberger finished fifth overall, and junior Garrett Patrick was right behind him in sixth. Junior Ryan Senci placed 12th. More than two miles into the 8k race, a pack of 25 runners was within seconds of each other, Stiles said, before some of the Bears’ top runners broke away.

“We’ve won every year, and our conference has gotten better ever year,” senior Elliott Petterson, who finished 14th overall, said. “So that speaks to the development of our program.”

The No. 10 women’s team finished fourth out of eight teams for the second straight year, but the result was not as disappointing as it may seem.

“You’ve got to put it in context,” Stiles said. “Six of the teams are ranked, so we’re good. [Our performance] was much better than last year…I think we can finish just as high or higher in our entire region.”

Indeed, No. 8 New York University and No. 9 University of Chicago are both ahead of Wash. U. in the coaches’ poll, though No. 33 Brandeis University also snuck ahead of the Bears in the race. The Red and Green’s 92-point tally put them just four behind Brandeis. UChicago won the meet with 54 points to NYU’s 60.

The Bears’ top five consisted of Cheadle and four runners in freshman or sophomore year, which excited Stiles. Behind Cheadle in 15th place overall was freshman Sarah Curci, followed by sophomores Ellen Toennies and Bri Tiffany in 23rd and 25th, respectively. Freshman Annie Marggraff, who missed the team’s last meet with an injury, claimed 28th place.

10 runners from each squad raced for the Bears at the conference finals, but Stiles will have to narrow it down to seven for the NCAA Midwest Regionals Nov. 16. Teams that finish first in regionals receive automatic bids to the NCAA Championships Nov. 23.

On the women’s side, UChicago is the only UAA team that beat Wash. U. in the Midwest. No. 17 University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and No. 25 University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are the only other ranked Midwest women’s teams.

“The team goal is to be in the top four because historically they’ll take the top four from each region, and we want to move on to nationals,” Cheadle said. “I think we want to be as close to UChicago as possible and definitely put the pressure on them.”

The men’s team is ranked second in the Midwest Region behind national No. 1 North Central College, and the Midwest is home to four other schools in the top 14. Asked if the Bears could challenge mighty North Central, the two-time defending national champion, Petterson was cautiously optimistic.

“I think we have a better chance this year than we’ve had before in the school’s history,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult—they’re a very good team—but if we’ve ever had a chance, it’s now.”