Personal-best performances paced both men’s and women’s cross country teams to strong finishes in the Atlantic 10 Championship Saturday.
The men’s side set a new program record with a third-place finish out of 14 teams — an improvement from their 10th-place finish last season — at the Oatlands Plantation course in Leesburg, Va. The Colonials’ previous best result was a fourth place finish out of eight teams in 1993.
The women’s team finished with a tie for sixth in the meet, matching last season’s placement. They were led by junior Madison Yerke, who along with graduate student Matt Lange and senior Carter Day from the men’s side, were named to the All-Conference team for finishing in the top 15.
Lange led the team in the men’s 8K with a sixth place finish in 25:26.7. At the 5K mark of the race, he was in first place but could not hold onto the lead through the end. All of the men’s scoring runners finished in the top 30.
“It was a breakthrough day for our men,” head coach Terry Weir said. “Each year we’ve been getting a little bit better, but we just hadn’t been able to put it together in the past at this meet and they finally just came together and ran a hell of a race.”
Lange was followed by Day, who finished the race in 11th place with a time of 25:34.6. Day and seniors Chris Shaffer and Charles Arnold had personal-best finishing times and overall places. Junior Andrew Weber and sophomore Colin Wills also had career-best placements during the race.
Weir said part of the reason for the high-placing finish was because of the leadership of the team’s nine seniors. The Colonials expect to follow the momentum to championship success in the future, he said.
“Now there is an expectation level and we are one of the better teams in the A-10,” Weir said. “We should be able to shoot for a title very shortly.”
Since last season, the team’s overall attitude has changed their mentality to focus on winning and allowed for them to be successful during the championship, Lange said.
“If you talk like you’re winners, you’re going to be in it,” Lange said. “But if you talk like you’re a program that doesn’t belong, then you don’t.”
Despite great weather and conditions for the race this weekend, the teams were challenged on a tough, hilly course. Lange said the Oatlands Plantation course was one of the hardest he’s ever run.
The women’s team was led by Yerke, who finished in 11th place with a time of 18:19.1 in the 5K race. She was followed by junior Halley Brown, who finished 29th in 18:48.7. They each had their best A-10 championship placements along with sophomore Suzanne Dannheim and junior Lesley Fatica.
Yerke said the team trained for the rigorous championship course by running on hills about every other week.
“Having the team with us doing hills really helped our mentality before the race,” she said. “I think we were well prepared to fight the course.”
Weir said the team raced well, despite the tough course, especially the women who ran a shorter distance than the men. The combination of the hills and the shorter distance made the race difficult due to the quick race time, he said.
“I thought we got a little bit behind early,” Weir said. “We had a lot of girls that kept their composure and were able to crawl back into it.”
Freshman Margaret Coogan – who finished 64th in 19:30.0, a personal record – is one of seven freshmen on the team this year, but came to GW without any previous cross country experience.
“She had a heck of a race today,” Weir said. “For someone who hasn’t done cross country and ran a course like this, she just ran really super.”
The Colonials’ next race is at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional in Bethlehem, Pa. Nov. 10.