Women’s cross-country wins Midwest Regionals, men finish third

| Contributing Reporter

Maybe it was the cold, harsh weather that has enveloped the Midwest this fall. Maybe it was the runners wearing new sneakers. Or maybe, and much likelier, the Washington University cross country teams are just really, really good.

The Bears dominated Saturday at the NCAA Division III Midwest Regional Championship at the Whitetail Golf Course in Colfax, Wis. The women’s team won it all, earning an automatic ticket to next weekend’s NCAA Championship, while the men’s team came in third place before getting a nod from the selection committee Sunday to advance to the national meet.

Senior Brad Hodkinson had the fastest time of the day, completing the 8K race in just 24:32, nearly a full minute quicker than his winning time at the UAA Championships two weeks ago.

“[Hodkinson] is just really talented and very motivated—that makes for a pretty good combination,” head coach Jeff Stiles said.

Junior Paige Lawler came in second place in the women’s race with a time of 21:23 running the 6K course, just 1.4 seconds behind the top finisher. Still, her dazzling performance was not the only one. The Bears kept their total to just 58 points, beating out second-place University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire by 35. The team’s resounding victory was a combined effort, as all seven women finished in the top 40, with junior Sophie Watterson and graduate student Aly Wayne joining Lawler in the top ten. Senior Lisa Gorham finished 13th of the women, an impressive improvement over her 49th place finish at last November’s regionals.

“We ran really well today on both sides,” Stiles said. “We did what we needed to do and were capable of doing.”

Numerous Bears had to battle health issues to succeed. Sophomore Joe Stover was sick two weeks ago and did not run in the conference championships, yet he performed well in Colfax, finishing 20th in a field of 253 men. Graduate student David O’Gara, who was awarded all-UAA First Team honors after the conference meet, overcame ankle soreness throughout the race to finish 36th.

The runners had to adjust their routines slightly to account for the unusual cold, as race-start temperatures just barely climbed into the teens. Stiles said that the runners spent longer on warmups than is typical and had additional clothing to keep warm, but that the cold was not too much of an obstacle. According to Stiles, the group trains in the early St. Louis mornings to prepare for frigid weather and the runners are used to it.

“A lot of it is just your mental approach and not making excuses,” Stiles said.

The team may have performed well Saturday, but the season is far from over. Next weekend, the Bears will return north hungry for the national championship that has just barely eluded them in recent years.

“We’ll just need to execute like it’s any other meet,” Stiles, who led the women’s team to a bronze medal at the national championship last autumn, said. “Taking our momentum and running with that confidence are going to be key.”

The championship will take place Saturday at 11:15 a.m. at the Lake Breeze Golf Club in Winneconne, Wis.

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