Women’s cross country earned its highest Atlantic 10 Championship finish in program history Saturday.
The team finished the competition second, while senior Suzanne Dannheim nabbed second overall, junior Margaret Coogan placed fifth and sophomore Mariah Moro placed 14th. Runners said their A-10 performance was a culmination of improvements at each meet throughout the season and the support from a tight-knit team.
“The whole season was leading up to that moment,” Moro said. “So when it finally came and it turned out really well, it was very euphoric and exciting. Very proud moment for everyone because you saw the way we progressed throughout the whole season and everyone was doing better each race.”
While the women’s team improved overall in 2019, several members of the squad also placed higher individually than they did in the 2018 championship. Last season, Coogan finished in the 60s and Moro finished in the 80s.
“We’re a smaller team this year than we were last year, but I feel like we’re all very close,” Moro said. “We all bond very well with each other, and it’s just like we’re all accountable toward each other without having to say it out loud.”
The team nabbed seventh place last season, and Dannheim was the only Colonial to place in the top 10. This season, the squad was expected to finish ninth in the conference overall, but Moro said the Colonials’ second-place A-10 finish has helped them feel more confident about their potential to do well in the upcoming regional competition.
“Now people are aware of us, and they’re aware of how good we are,” Moro said. “We finally have that foot in the door.”
Coogan said the team went through a mental shift this season, developing and sustaining a winning mindset. She added that the team maintained its physical fitness from the 2018 A-10 Championship, but the new headspace was the game-changer at this season’s meet.
“We all thought, ‘We are capable of being in this top pack, we are the best team here, we are capable of winning,’” Coogan said. “That’s just such a better attitude to go into a race with, just knowing that the opportunity is truly, truly there.”
As the team prepares for the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional on Nov. 15, Coogan said the team needs to “remain calm” and focused and prepare for a few intense training days in the coming weeks to be ready for its next meet.
“We don’t want to be too over the top with our happiness from A-10s,” Coogan said. “We want to go into it as if it were equally as important, because it is as or more important.”
Head coach Terry Weir said the team had a culture-changing moment at the end of the 2019 spring semester in which the women needed to decide what kind of mentality they wanted heading into the season.
“They all sat down on their own, just as a team with no coaches there, and said, ‘Listen, as a group we want to do this, and we think we can,’” he said. “I think they held each other accountable for the summer and that kind of just set the tone, really, for when they all came back in shape and felt pretty good about it. It’s kind of changed the culture.”
The men’s squad, made up of only first-year competitors, also competed at the A-10 Championship Saturday. While the men placed 12th overall, freshman James Glockenmeier finished 25th overall and was the third-fastest freshman at the race.
Weir said the outpouring of support from alumni, family and friends also made a difference in the team’s performance this weekend.
“We had a huge amount of alumni come back and watch, a lot of them flew in, and we had a lot of family, friends and alums all out there – we had a really big crowd,” he said. “That’s what I took away from the weekend, just a lot of good GW family love out there.”
For the Colonials’ regional meet next week, Weir said the team wants to rank among the top eight teams overall and defeat La Salle, a conference rival. He added that Dannheim has a real shot at qualifying individually for the NCAA national meet.
“It was just a huge, huge, huge race for us,” Weir said. “I’m just over the moon about how the girls ran. They were fantastic.”