UMW’s cross country team finished their season on Nov. 12 at the NCAA Division III South Regional Championship meet at Christopher Newport University.
The men’s team, which runs an 8k, finished in 11th place out of 24 competing schools and the women, who run a 6k, were ranked 15th out of 27. Patrick Murphy led the men’s team with a time of 26:31, earning him a 17th-place finish and all-region honors. UMW’s top female runner at the championship meet was senior Grace Pippin, who finished her race in 61st place at a time of 26:14.
Many former UMW cross country runners came out to support the teams, providing the team with some additional encouragement.
Going into the regional competition, sophomore environmental science and Spanish double major Jessica Oberlies said, “We’re starting to be at the peak of our season so everybody has been scaling back on miles and fine tuning where we’re at. I can tell that everyone feels really strong and this is the most in shape we’ve been all season.”
Murphy, a senior cybersecurity major, had a good chance of making the cut to nationals, but missed the qualification by one spot and 20 seconds.
“I was unfortunately unable to qualify for nationals,” said Murphy. “It was a brutal race in some hot weather that completely shook up the results.”
Because only the top two teams and top seven runners from regionals qualify for nationals, UMW didn’t make the cut. But despite the disappointing results, Murphy is still proud of how far he and the team came this season.
Coming into the season after the loss of several strong seniors, some of the athletes didn’t expect to do as well as they did. Yet, the men’s team ended up only dropping one place in the NCAA D-III rankings, going from No. 10 in the 2021 season to No. 11.
The meet on Saturday not only concluded the team’s 2022 season, but also head coach Asia Hart’s first season leading the Eagles.
With Hart, the cross country team was focused on rebuilding after losing strong runners that graduated. Despite these hurdles, under strong leadership and commitment, the team proved their endurance and surprised themselves with their season’s success.
“My first season here as a head coach has gotten off to a solid start,” said Hart. “The men’s and women’s cross country teams have fully embraced laying down a solid foundation this year and creating those building blocks to have a successful team year in and year out.”
The cross country team has adjusted well to the new leadership. Senior communication and digital studies major Nick Onorato mentioned that Hart has taken on some of the logistical tasks, such as planning away trips that the runners used to be in charge of, and has also hosted team bonding events that boosted the camaraderie among the teams. One of those was walking around Reading Market in Philadelphia, Pa., after a meet and enjoying some Philly cheesesteaks with the team, Onorato recalled.
Additionally, Hart has been mixing things up in the weight room by instructing the athletes in different exercise routines. She’s also done more to integrate the long-distance runners with the sprinters, helping them feel more like one team.
The new training regimine paid off, as earlier in the season two UMW runners were recognized as C2C Cross Country Athletes of the Week after their strong performance at the Shenandoah University Hornet Harrier race: Murphy and Teresa Guzman. Murphy helped lead the men’s team to a second-place finish, and Guzman led the women to a third-place finish.
Then, on Oct. 29, the men’s and women’s cross country teams placed fourth at the C2C Conference Championships, racing against Christopher Newport University, UC Santa Cruz, Salisbury University, Warren Wilson College and Pratt Institute.
At the championship meet, the men’s team received 99 points with two of their senior runners among the top fifteen: Patrick Murphy with a 12th place finish and a time of 25:17 and Nick Onorato in 14th at 25:33. The women finished with 117 points as Pippin led with a 17th place finish at 23:41 and Oberlies finished 23rd with a time of 24:29.
Murphy and Onorato, with times of 25:17 and 25:33, respectively, made all-conference at C2C and both ran times one minute faster than the seniors at the 2021 C2C meet.
Overall, the team was able to succeed and learn how to test their limits.
“Distance running isn’t just about getting the fastest time,” said Murphy. “It’s about the bonds formed through fighting through pain and pushing yourself.”
Onorato felt that the season went really well.
“The team ran crazy PRs [personal records] and have been improving a lot,” he said. “I don’t think there was a lot we could have done better.”