The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

UMW Cross Country team competes in Richmond

4 min read
Taken inside a charter bus, the UMW Cross Country team leans towards the center aisle for a photo.

The UMW cross country men’s and women’s teams heading to Richmond, Va. for their first meet of the season.


Staff Writer

It was chilly and still dark outside the morning of Saturday, Sept. 2, when the UMW cross country team assembled at the campus track and boarded the bus headed to Pole Green Park in Richmond, Va. for the University of Richmond Spider Alumni Invitational. This was the team’s first race of the season, and the meet would serve as an initial goal-setter for the runners to help determine where they stood individually and as a team for future races.

The bus ride to the state’s capital was relatively short and easy. “It’s only an hour away, so we’ll be able to not have to worry about traveling a long distance. We can just wake up, get a good little shake out in, and then get ready to go to the meet. We’re on a flat course, so it should be pretty fast, so that will be a good way to test everyone’s flat speed right now,” said Coach Asia Hart, head cross country and track and field coach at UMW. “This meet will really help set the stage for our season.” 

The 2023 UMW cross country team consists of 27 members, including 12 new freshmen, which is the largest freshman class on the team in over 10 years. “It’s my first ever collegiate meet, so I’m just excited to see how it goes,” said Eyaya Fletcher, a freshman majoring in international affairs, before her race. Her goals for the meet were “to finish off strong and have things I can improve on for the next meet.”

Having a big cross country team this year helps upperclassmen get to know the first years, which fosters a strong sense of community and sportsmanship on the team. “I’m excited to have a bunch of new freshmen runners on the team; they bring a good energy to the team and motivate me to be my best, to set a good example for them. I remember the people I looked up to on the team when I started at UMW had a big impact on me and helped me learn to have confidence and believe in myself as a runner,” said Jessica Oberlies, a junior in her third year on the team, double majoring in environmental science and Spanish.

By the time the UMW cross country team arrived at Pole Green Park, it was sunny with a gentle breeze, the temperature was in the low 70s, and there was no humidity, which made for good running conditions for both the men’s 6K and women’s 4K events. This meet was a perfect opportunity for Coach Hart to see how the team would perform on this type of course and push themselves with the energy they had stored up. “I am very excited; it’s been a long time coming. We’ve all worked very hard to get to this point from last year, so we want to see all of our hard work over the past year  come to fruition this weekend.” 

Cross country runners compete individually and as a team. Going out knowing that you are in this just to run and do your best helps motivate runners to be the best they can be. “For me personally, when I am running with joy and with the purpose of helping my team, I do my best!” said Oberlies. 

“I felt pretty good in the first lap, and it definitely was a hot one; it was good just to get the first one in,” said Fletcher after her first race.“ I’m excited to see where the next one ends up and how it goes for the rest of the season and for the next three years.” 

The UMW cross country team was one of three Division III teams at this meet, while the other institutions were either Division I or II. Out of 17 teams, the men’s team placed 12th overall, and the women’s placed 14th. While each runner is trying to beat their personal time, the team gains points by runners placing high in their event. The runner coming in first place gets one point, second place gets two points, and so on. The team that receives the least amount of points after they are added up wins the meet. This meet was a great way to start the season. 

Coming up, the UMW cross country team will be competing at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., on Saturday, Sept. 16. In that meet, the men will be competing in an 8K event, while the women will be running a 5K. 

“Something my grandfather would always tell me before races that has stuck with me is to ‘run fast, run smart, and have fun,’” said Oberlies.