Despite injuries, cross country ahead of course

For a sport that is by its very nature individualistic, there is a whole lot of team in GW’s cross country program. In fact, the Colonials remain defiant in their focus on maintaining a team atmosphere.

This attitude has paid dividends this season. With several runners coming into the season with injuries, it has been an uphill climb for a program that could have struggled this season.

Picked to finish low in the Atlantic 10 in the preseason coaches poll – 12th for women’s team and 10th for the men’s – the squad now seems poised to push for much higher spots at the conference championship.

The Colonials took third out of 20 teams at this past weekend’s Carnegie Mellon Invitational. Junior Audrey Noonan won the women’s race while three men finished in the top 20. Six runners set personal records, including senior Mae Polhemus and sophomore Meaghan Smith, who both had top-10 finishes and figure to be among the top four spots for the GW women’s team at the A-10 Championship, held Oct. 27 in Philadelphia.

Fourth-year coach Brian Biel noted that injuries are always tough, especially having to train away from the team, but the supportive atmosphere, he said, is a big help.

Even with the strong bonds the team members have formed, they still find a competitive drive while working together.

“We can’t be good runners if we’re not competitive,” Noonan said. “We run together to push ourselves.”

Noonan also added that personal records are important because they benefit the team, not just the individual. Smith said she agreed, noting that runners are competitive by nature but don’t let their driven personalities affect their relationships.

“We use it to help each other and leave it at the race,” Smith said.

That drive will be essential in the A-10 Championship, as GW looks to finish in the top five. Noonan, who finished seventh overall at last year’s meet, said she believes the Colonials can finish high in the standings.

“There’s no reason why we can’t be a top program with the strength we have.”

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