‘Future is bright’ for women’s cross-country

Published by , Author: Megan Majercak - Rocket Contributor, Date: November 11, 2016
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The Slippery Rock University women’s cross-country season has officially come to an end. The girls may have ended up lower than they would have hoped for, but the season brought out great experience and improvement.

The team was able to compete at Edinboro University, the University of Lock Haven, twice at Kutztown University and twice at home at Cooper’s Lake Campground.

Sophomore transfer Courtney Group led the team in five of their six races. Group’s performance was one of the most notable accomplishments of the season, SRU head coach John Papa said.

“She had a great summer of training and a great season for SRU,” Papa said.

Group was just three spots away from making All-Region at the Atlantic Regionals in early November, but the underclassman still has two more seasons to improve.

This season was not without its challenges, however. One of the hardest obstacles this year was that multiple lead runners, including Jenny Picot and Leah Anne Wirfel, graduated last year, and younger runners were expected to fill in those gaps. Adjusting to the loss of runners contributed to a tougher season.

“The ladies that stepped up gained some great racing experience,” Papa said. “The training and racing are extremely challenging.”

“Illness and injuries on the team definitely held us back from what we hoped to accomplish,” Papa said.

Junior Melissa Rains missed two races, and Group was sick for the championship part of the season. Several freshmen and transfers were redshirted this season due to injuries they had prior to coming to Slippery Rock.

Papa viewed the season as a fact-finding and learning season. The girls had to learn how to race with the loss of graduates. The underclassmen learned what it takes to compete at the collegiate level.

“I believe that the ladies learned that they need to run more miles, improve their strength and fitness levels and to race with passion,” Papa said.

The ladies ended their season at NCAA Atlantic Regionals, placing ninth in the region. At the PSAC Championships, the team placed eighth. The placings were disappointing for the team, as last year they earned sixth at PSAC. Coach Papa hopes to improve this rank in the coming seasons.

“The future is bright, we should be significantly better in 2017,” Papa said.

Now, the ladies will move onto indoor track season and will get support from runners that were injured during cross-country season, Papa said.

“Many of the incoming freshman and transfers are now healthy and ready to contribute to the (indoor track) team,” Papa said. “We are excited and hope to do well at the Indoor PSAC Championships at the end of February 2017.”

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