The cross-country team has been working harder than ever in the past few weeks. With three race weekends in a row, every athlete on the team has proved themselves better than their previous selves. The first of the three challenges started on the trails they call home, the Maryville College Invitational.
This year marks the first time the race was ran on a Friday afternoon. Typically this would be seen as a relief, as late September is when the weather starts to cool off, but the runners were actually given a day with a high of 95 and a heat index reaching 100 degrees.
The second of the three challenges landed in Louisville, Ky. at the Louisville Cross Country Classic. This was the first time the Scots made the trip to historic Tom Sawyer park. The atmosphere was perfect with temperatures in the 60’s and a vast number of competitors. The conditions were ripe for many members of the team to set personal bests.
On the men’s side, senior Daniel Beckett clocked his second ever 26 minute performance, only seven seconds off of the school record which he set his sophomore year at the NCAA Southeast Regionals meet in Newport News, Va.
For senior Ryan Lay, this race was special in that he ran his first sub-29 minute 8K, something that the coaches had been working with him to accomplish. Sophomore Cooper Harrison also set a new personal best at the park.
“I felt that the race at Louisville Classic, even though it was not well organized, was still a great course to run,” Harrison said. “I believe that’s what set myself and my teammates up for some good times.”
Unfortunately for the women, the leading cart misdirected the course, which threw off the 8K distance. Athletes, coaches and spectators were not pleased as the Division III section of the meet was also the pre-nationals meet.
The NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships will be held on Nov. 23 at Tom Sawyer park. The teams anticipated using this last meet as a course preview for the championships race, explaining the frustration among athletes.
Junior Lea Mulligan laid down a solid performance as the team’s first finisher. In an accurately guided course, her time would have landed as the new 6K school record.
“Although the Louisville Classic didn’t end up being a full 6K, it was a fun experience racing with a lot of competition,” said Mulligan. “It was a great opportunity to race on a flat, fast championship course with a lot of really good athletes.”
The final of the three challenges was in Charlotte, N. C. at McAlpine Creek Park, home of the Footlocker South Cross Country Championships hosted in late November.
This was the flattest course that the Scots have ever competed on, because the southern US has received little rain in the past couple of months. The course was run on crushed gravel, and—combined with over five-hundred runners in both races—conditions were ripe for a dust storm to affect every runner’s breathing.
Seniors Beckett and Lay guided the team to the fastest team average in several years. Beckett also broke the school record with a time of 26:31, while Lay set a new 8K best of 28:17. Freshman Parker Owens ran an impressive 32:22, two minutes faster than his first performance at Berea College.
On the women’s side, Lilly Simms set a new 5K personal record (PR) with a time of 19:23. Mulligan finished second in this race, and freshman Hannah Mattison ran a new PR of 21:31.
“Running in the dust made the course difficult,” Mattison said. “I didn’t think I would set a personal best because I was boxed in the first mile, which affected my mile pace a lot.
I’m excited to see what happens at Conference championships because this will be my first 6k of the season. The team has really worked hard this year.”
The Scots are preparing to race at North Carolina Wesleyan University for the USA South Conference Championships on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. They are anticipating several athletes will make the All-Conference team.