September 14, 2017
The Wheaton Thunder Women’s Cross Country team kicked the season off with a big win at the Aurora Spartan Cross Country Classic on Friday, Sept. 8. The team placed first out of eight teams, showing impressive performances across the board. Individually, freshman Hannah Roeske captured third place, coming in as the first Wheaton runner to cross the finish line at 22:46.9. Seniors Rebecca Marcotte and Ellie Hawthorne finished shortly after, crossing at 22:52.8 and 23:31.8 respectively. Those times earned them fifth and 10th place finishes. Thunder team members sophomore Aryn Embretson, junior Erika Johnson, sophomore Ally Stapleton and junior Megan Bailey all finished in the top twenty in a field of 117 runners.
The athletes seemed pleased with their results. Hawthorne, the team captain, said, “My [personal record] in the 6K is 23:31, which is the time that I ran on Friday. After being injured all of cross country last year, it was nice to be able to start on a strong note and improve on my times from sophomore year. I hope to be able to continue to bring that time down as the season goes on!”
Head Coach David Walford said that coaching staff viewed the first race as a chance for the upperclassmen to ease back into competition and for the freshman to get used to collegiate running. When talking about race strategy, Walford said they held the girls back to a moderate pace for first two miles, and then let them drop time on the last section. They hope this will allow the athletes to gradually build towards their maximum performance. Though they didn’t necessarily push their hardest, Walford said he thought the team competed very well. “It’s ridiculous that they did really, really well even though they weren’t maximizing their effort,” Walford said. This strategy appears to have helped the girls start out the season on a high note.
“I would say I felt the best about half way through the race when we could start picking up the pace and my body still felt strong and I had more to give,” Hawthorne said. “I don’t think there was a time when I really felt the worst during this race, which is encouraging because I know I have room to improve.”
Walford has high hopes for the girls as the season continues and the team looks forward to regional and national competitions. “To win conference would be a primary goal, and if we stay healthy I think that we can qualify for nationals,” Walford said. “That’s not an easy goal, but it’s an achievable goal. Seeing our first race I really do think that it’s possible.” The girls also hold these hopes while pushing towards individual goals as well. “As for goals for the team, we have our sights set high after three conference championships last year, but we will take it one race at a time and do our best with whatever God gives us each day!,” said Hawthorne.
Wheaton’s Women’s Cross Country team will be returning to action when they host the Gil Dodds invitational at 10 a.m. on Sept. 16 at St. James Farm in Warrenville.