The Slippery Rock women’s cross country team traveled to Alaska this past Thursday for an exhibition against The University of Alaska Anchorage.
The team drove 1,100 miles over a four day span, but it was well worth it according to SRU head coach John Papa.
“There was so much to do and see that we just kept moving except when it came time to sleep,” Papa said. “The trip was somewhat hectic, but it was worth it.”
Since the season didn’t officially start yet, the NCAA would not allow official results to be kept for this race, but the team was was led by sophomore Melissa Rains.
Papa is looking forward to seeing what Rains can provide for the team this season.
“Melissa had a great summer of training,” Papa said. “She looks to be one of our top runners this season.”
Due to injury last season, a few of the Rock runners were unable to participate in meets. These runners included Rains, sophomore Erin Allison, sophomore Challis Roberts, and sophomore Caitlyn Janeda.
After summer training, each of these returners finished at the top of half of Slippery Rock runners.
Also finishing in the top half for SRU were junior Alexis Swiergol and junior Kaylee Haberkam. Swiergol was the second finisher for SRU, following Rains.
Despite no times being posted, Papa was still pleased with the learning experience of this trip.
He believes that the student athletes spent quite a bit of time together and got to know each other a lot better.
“I think that the trip to Alaska was a learning and growing experience for the team,” Papa said. “The ladies had a fast workout that will prepare them for future races.”
Rock runners who were unable to attend the trip due to educational conflicts included senior Jenny Picot, senior Leah Anne Wirfel, and senior Shannon Byerly.
Picot and Wirfel are considered as SRU’s top two runners for 2015. Freshman Sabrina Palmieri also did not attend the trip.
The ladies used this trip to Alaska as more of a team building experience and practice for the upcoming season. They struggled through cold weather, but Papa says that colder weather is more comfortable for long distance runners.
Now that the team is back, Papa would like his team to focus more on the upcoming season.
“We need to get into the student athlete groove while focusing to get ready for the upcoming season,” Papa said.
The ladies’ first meet of the regular is set to take place Saturday against Ediboro at the Doug Watts Cross Country Gala.