November 30, 2017

The Wheaton Thunder’s Women’s Cross Country team finished up their season with their final competition at NCAA National Championship on Saturday, November 18th. The team competed to win 15th place out of a 32-team field. This was the Women Thunder’s first time at nationals since 2014 and highest placing they’ve gotten since 1999.  

Johns Hopkins won first place in the Cross Country Championship with 96 points. UW-Eau Claire took second place with 191 points, WashU scored 202 points to capture third place, MIT took fourth with 210 points and Carleton came in fifth with 258 points. Only 28 points separated the Wheaton women from the 10th place finishers, RPI who scored 397 points. The Thunder rounded out the top-15 with 425 points. The top three performers on Saturday were Khia Kurtenbach from University of Chicago who finished first with a time of 20:39.20, Bryn Mckillop of Claremont-Mudd-Scripps who scored second in 20:45.90 and Johns Hopkins’ Ellie Clawson in third with a time of 20:47.00.

Freshman Hannah Roeske took 21st place out of 279 runners in a time of 21:16.30 as the top Wheaton runner. She won All-America recognition from the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association as a result of her performance. She told us, “Every race my goal is to do the best with the gift of running that God has given me. Finishing as an All-American was super exciting. It was really cool to see the way that God blessed this season and all the hard work that I put in. Finishing as an All-American was a goal that I would not have been able to accomplish without the help and encouragement of my teammates and coaches. Being able to share the experience of Nationals with my teammates was by far my favorite part of the weekend.” Roeske’s teammates Aryn Embretson and Erika Johnson, both juniors, scored 80th and 143rd with times of 22:06.30 and 22:33.50 respectively. Senior Rebecca Marcotte crossed the finish line at a time of 22:44.90 to capture 170th place and junior Megan Bailey took 198th in 22:56.00.  Junior Ellie Hawthorne placed 236th in 23:16.70 and Laura Barnes ran a time of 23:28.60 in 246th place.

The chilly winds and a hilly race course packed with runners did not set runners up for the best success on Saturday. In fact, three of Wheaton’s runners fell within the first mile because of the crowds. Despite the rough conditions, Hawthorne told us, “The Nationals experience was a lot of fun! It has been a season of hard work and more to get there, and there have been dreams of the possibility to run at nationals in the back of our minds for a long time so it was exciting to actually make it there! It was a great experience to get to race in an environment like that and to be out there with the best in DIII.”  

The falls and difficult running weather had an impact on Wheaton’s race, as the team was ranked 14th coming into the week and placed 15th. The athletes, however, chose to focus on the most important aspect of running. Johnson said, “It was a challenging race because of the crazy weather and having three of our teammates fall, but also a celebration of the gifts God has given us this season.” Embretson said that while the race results may not have been exactly what they were looking for, she could not be disappointed with her and her team’s efforts. She also added, “We got 15th in the region last year, and this year we were 15th in the nation; such a dramatic improvement is something to celebrate and be proud of. I’m already excited for next year’s season because I know we will come back even stronger.” Hawthorne added that the difficulties of Saturday’s race will just motivate them to keep pushing themselves as they look forward to next year’s season.

In an interview at the race, Coach David Walford shared that though the race was tough, he was really proud of Wheaton’s runners. “I felt like our girls executed the race really well and ran really hard. Hannah [Roeske] did really well coming in as a freshman. I’m really proud of her.” He also shared that this race was the first national race for all but one of Wheaton runners. He felt proud of how they performed and is excited to see what they can do next year.