The Emory men’s and women’s cross country teams both finished No. 25 out of a field of 32 schools to wrap up the 2017 season at the NCAA Division III National Championships in Principia, Ill., Nov. 18.
Representing Emory for the last time in her illustrious collegiate career, senior captain Gabrielle Stravach led the women with a 21:06 6k time, placing her No. 10 out of 279 runners. Stravach’s top-10 finish at Nationals earned her All-American honors, one of many accolades she has accumulated over her years running for Emory, such as posting an Emory record at the Regional Championships Nov. 11 with a sub-21 minute 6k.
“[Stravach] had the highest finish at Nationals since Vista Beasley in the 90s,” Head Coach John Curtin said. “To be top 10 is a big deal, considering the very best distance runners from all over the country race at the same time.”
Stravach put together a monumental Emory career, earning several national, regional and conference honors along the way and adding her name to the list of Emory cross country greats.
“This team means a lot to me and I wanted to finish out my last season as strongly as possible,” Stravach said. “I wanted to do everything I could to help the team, so I’m really excited with how I did and I’m glad I did it when it counted.”
Freshmen Susie Martin and Abby Durfee, junior Kayla O’Shea and senior Tru Powell rounded out Emory’s top five runners. Together they put together an average time of 22:31. Johns Hopkins University (Md.) led the field with an average time of 21:24.
“I’m really proud of our team, the rookies especially, who laid it all out on the line and did everything they could do,” Stravach said. “Although the [placement] wasn’t what we were hoping for, as a team we went out there and gave everything we had left.”
On the men’s side, senior Shane Sullivan spearheaded Emory’s efforts with a 25:26 8k. Sullivan’s performance landed him at No. 88 out of 279 runners. For a fourth consecutive competition, Sullivan recorded the top time for the men’s team.
“It was a real privilege to be able to lead the guys to a good race at Nationals,” Sullivan said. “It meant a lot, and at the cool down afterwards it was emotional to know that was the last time I’d be out there with those guys.”
Junior Bennett Shaw, sophomores Marty Pimentel and Sam Branson and senior Max Brown were also among Emory’s top five, averaging a 25:50 8k time. North Central College (Ill.) put together the championship’s best time with an average time of 24:33.
Despite difficult conditions, Sullivan was proud of his teammates’ ability to battle to the finish line.
“The weather wasn’t great. It was rainy, windy and cold,” Sullivan said. “Everyone still had a great race, even with all the negative factors on race day.”
Recapping Emory’s day at Nationals, Curtin was somewhat disappointed with Emory’s placement.
“[Nationals] was not a great performance by our team, but it was not a total failure either,” Curtin said. “We had some good performances mixed in with some less than outstanding [finishes], that said it’s hard to have everyone at their peak at the same time.”
Looking back at the 2017 season, Emory had some of their most successful meets on a large stage. The Eagles impressed with a No. 3 finish in the highly competitive University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships Oct. 28 in both the male and female divisions.
On the tails of a strong showing at UAAs, Emory’s cross country teams returned two weeks later to finish No. 3 and No. 2, respectively, at the Nov. 11 Regional Championships. Both squads proved themselves worthy and claimed a spot to compete for the National Championships.
One of Emory’s largest assets during the season was its youth. The men’s and women’s teams combined introduced a total of 26 freshmen to the squad.
“We got a lot of young [runners] involved, for instance on the women’s side we had five runners compete at Nationals who had never been there before,” Curtin said. “On the guy’s side we had a lot of freshmen and first-timers as well, so that bodes well for the future.”
After an exciting season highlighted by the successes of Stravach and Sullivan, the Eagles will transition to the next era of cross country at Emory and look to build upon the results of 2017.