By ASHLEY BRUCE
In the dry, dusty air of Seguin, Texas, the Eagles’ women’s and men’s cross country teams outraced over 22 teams, finishing eighth and ninth respectively in the NCAA Southeast Regionals on Nov. 12.
Over 400 student athletes raced this past weekend for the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship. These athletes represented 36 schools for the women and 31 schools for the men.
Overall, the men’s team completed the 8K in ninth place, which was higher than their finish in last year’s event. Junior Sean Healey received All-Region Honors with his 22nd place finish on the men’s side, while seniors Kyle Anderson and Chris Marino took 46th and 58th place in the 8K for UMW.
Freshman Julian Menk was in Healy’s race and described the junior’s path to his 22nd place finish.
“He ran with a lot of courage and believed that he had a good shot of making the national team,” Menk said. “Sean got out to a slow start, but he worked his way up coming up into the mile and just worked on passing people from there.”
The women’s team pushed for a strong finish in their 6K event, eventually taking eighth overall. The top finisher for the Lady Eagles was sophomore Erin Dandridge, who placed 46th. Fellow sophomore Liz Greene was next for UMW in 59th place, while senior Michaela Sands followed Greene with her 69th place finish.
Although Greene was in the top three for UMW, Eagles’ Head Coach Stan Soper explained why the usually elite runner dropped lower than usual.
“It was unfortunate for the team that Liz Greene, our top girl, became ill during the race,” Soper said.
Sands pushed hard in her race, knowing that as a senior it would be her last competition for Mary Washington.
“I started tearing up in our pre-race huddle,” Sands said. “When I was on the line looking out at the course I told myself that it was my last time doing this. I just had to go out there and race, and that’s what I tried to do.”
The Eagles’ worked hard since last June to prepare for their Regional races in Texas. The team worked on more speed and less distance prior to Regionals, and once they were in Texas, Soper’s squad did all they could to be ready for the big event.
“To prepare for Regionals, we ran the course the day before and talked about key points,” Sands said. “We went to Olive Garden the night before–a pre-race tradition–and went to bed early. We have a huddle with Coach, and then we do our own huddle right before the race begins.”
Although the performance for the Eagles was impressive given the large field, the team felt that they could have done better.
“I had mixed feelings about our performance,” Soper said. “We had strong, solid performances, but hoped to finish higher in the standings.”
Senior Captain Blake Turner agreed with his coach’s desire for better race results.
“We went into that race undefeated regionally, ranked sixth, and we had beaten the team that ended up winning the meet,” Turner said. “It was a poor last representation of what had been a fairly solid team for the entirety of the year and not how I wanted my last cross country race to turn out.”
Menk also agreed in saying, “I think the team did very well as we all ran with heart and determination; however, we did not perform as well as we had hoped.”
To be at the very top, where both team’s wanted to be, there were a couple improvements that had to be made. Turner thought the antidote for the men’s side was more self-confidence, while Menk thought the women’s team just needed greater individual consistency.
Though the Eagles didn’t quite meet their own expectations, they each finished their seasons in respectable fashions. Now some will take a breather before the spring track and field season begins, while others will have off until cross country gets going again next fall.