Women’s XC wins UAA title, men come second
Over the last five years, the following has become nearly habitual for the No. 2 Washington University women’s cross country team: They go to University Athletic Association (UAA) championships, they win UAA championships and they come home from UAA championships. This year was no different, as the Bears had the top three finishers in the race on Saturday, outpacing a host of top track programs to win their sixth straight UAA title.
Despite running well, the Wash. U. men encountered a tough ending to their race. Wash. U. finished just four points behind the winner, Carnegie Mellon University, to come second. The silver medal finish was just the second time the Bears have not won the UAA title since 2009, when they came fourth.
“It’s very positive,” head coach Jeff Stiles said. “I think both teams ran very well.”
Seniors Paige Lawler and Sophie Watterson and junior Megan Girmscheid had the top three finishes in the women’s race. Lawler, last year’s individual national champion and UAA Women’s Runner of the Year, won the 6K race with a time of 21:49.76, the second-best of her career, while Watterson came second with a time of 22:11.81. Girmscheid’s third-place time of 22:13.99 was a personal best, her previous record coming just two weeks ago at the Kollege Town Sports Invitational.
“For Megan in particular, that was the best race of her life—I saw a lot of guts,” Stiles said. “Sophie [Watterson] and Paige [Lawler] had pulled away. Megan was duking it out with the two [University of] Chicago girls, who ran very well and are very good runners.”
Stiles said that one of the two Chicago runners had been a national qualifier in track last year and that Grimscheid had fought hard to maintain her position in the race. “They’re tenacious,” he said of the Bears’ top-three runners.
Grimscheid’s personal record was not the only one Wash. U. recorded on Saturday. Sophomore Sophie Young came in eighth place overall with a time of 22:26.22, beating her old high score by more than a minute.
The Bears’ fifth runner, junior Katie Snodgrass, came in 10th place, clocking in at 22:30.17, nearly 30 seconds quicker than the Midwest Regionals time that won her All-Region recognition last fall.
For the fifth year in a row, Stiles and assistant coaches Kelli Blake and Jonathan Koch won the UAA Women’s Coaching Staff of the Year.
Senior Nick Matteucci came second in the men’s race, finishing the 8K course in 24:50.54, just three tenths of a second behind University of Chicago’s first-place finisher.
“With a mile to go we probably had the lead—just by a little bit—and they flipped us,” Stiles said of the men’s race. “We didn’t really lose. They won.”
Stiles observed that the course, in Pittsburgh, was harder than the courses at Midwest Regionals and national championships. “On the first mile you have some rolling hills and then it’s about a mile and a quarter downhill and therefore you have a mile and a quarter climb,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”
“I think that if we just run the same race on a different course, I think we’ll be perfect,” Stiles said.
Like Matteucci, senior Marco Quaroni and sophomore Patrick Norrick finished in the top 10. Quaroni completed the course in 25:07.08, finishing seventh, and Norrick was done in 25:14.23, finishing 10th. Norrick, who made the All-UAA Cross Country Rookie Team last year, beat his old personal best by 40 seconds.
Junior Joe Stover and sophomore Jacob Ridderhoff rounded out the scoring for the Bears. Stover finished 11th with a time of 25:18.32, while Ridderhoff finished three seconds later in 13th place.
The Wash. U. men finished with 43 points, just four behind the winners, Carnegie Mellon. “There’s a bittersweetness with the reality of coming so close and running so great, so our guys are very excited to get a second chance at the national championships,” Stiles said.
The Bears have a meet against North Central College on Thursday before moving onto Midwest Regionals Nov. 16 and NCAA Championships Nov. 23.
“We’re progressing well and we’re excited,” Stiles said. “Today was important, but we like to see it as a step along the way versus a focal point. National championships—November 23—that’s our focal point.”