Men’s and women’s cross country both take second place at NCAA regionals
The Washington University cross country team trekked Saturday to Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois for their most competitive meet of the season thus far: regionals. The men’s and women’s teams both exited the weekend with second place finishes and bids to the NCAA national championship next weekend.
The No. 14 WashU men finished behind only No. 1 Wartburg College and upset rival No. 9 North Central College, in their best team performance of the year, while the No. 4 women came in second to No. 3 Wartburg and ahead of No. 7 University of Chicago. The first-place teams each earned automatic bids to the national championship, while the others had to fight for one of the 22 at-large bids.
“It was definitely our best race on both sides,” head coach Jeff Stiles said. Notably, 13 of WashU’s 14 runners won all-region honors, which come from finishing within the top 35 individuals.
The men were led by senior Jacob Ridderhoff, who placed seventh overall after completing the eight-kilometer course in 24:40. Ridderhoff ran with teammate senior Patrick Norrick, who finished 13th in 24:46, for most of the race. Senior Michael Ly, junior Matt Kusak and sophomore Cullen Capuano also worked off of each other throughout the race to propel WashU into a second place finish in 86 points.
The women ran an equally strategic race. The unstoppable quartet of seniors Kiera Olson, Emma Walter, Sophie Young and junior Emily Konkus finished in order from sixth through ninth place, all within eight seconds of each other.
As WashU cross country charges into postseason meets like regionals and nationals, Stiles said the key philosophy “is that you try not to change.” Despite WashU being one of the most decorated D3 cross country programs in the nation, Stiles encourages the team to stay humble and to focus on the process of great races rather than on the end result.
Next weekend, both teams hope to place in the top four, but beyond that, the primary goal is to “just execute a good race and let the chips fall where they may,” Stiles said. He mimics race strategy during workouts by having the runners “not just go from the gun” (meaning, discouraging maximum effort from the start), but rather to “build throughout the workouts, just like building throughout the races.” This focused mindset is sure to aid WashU’s 14 racers as they head to Louisville next weekend for nationals.
National championships are Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky.
More on the WashU cross country team: