Emory’s men’s and women’s cross country teams finished No. 17 and No. 11, respectively, out of a field of more than 30 schools in the Cowbell Classic at Principia College (Ill.) Oct. 14.
Saturday’s race was Emory’s “pre-Nationals” event, the teams’ last competition before the University Athletic Association (UAA) and NCAA Division South/Southeast Regional Championships.
In the women’s race, Johns Hopkins University (Md.) finished No. 1 with an average 6K time of 22:01. Emory finished more than a minute after Hopkins with an average time of 23:19.
Putting together a spectacular performance, senior captain Gabrielle Stravach led Emory with a No. 5 overall finish out of 332 runners. Emory’s second fastest runner for the women’s team was freshman Carrie McIntyre with a 6K time of 21:41.
Head Coach John Curtin raved about Stravach’s performance, praising her ability to post a great time despite the difficult conditions, particularly, the temperature. It was above 90 degrees, causing dozens of competitors to suffer from heat exhaustion, according to Curtin.
“Stravach established herself as a true national competitor,” Curtin said. “She ran brilliantly, despite it being a particularly difficult course, and the conditions were awful.”
Junior Kayla O’Shea, freshman Abby Durfee and junior Kaylee Slade rounded out Emory’s top five. Each runner finished within the top 100.
Highlighting the success of her teammates, Stravach expressed her excitement about the performance of some of the newer members of the team.
“It was a really big weekend for our rookies, who haven’t been able to travel, and a lot of them rose to occasion,” Stravach said. “How a lot of the girls stepped up to the plate this weekend is a really good sign for the rest of the season.”
Noting a potential setback to Emory’s overall score, Curtin mentioned that junior Maeve Andrews struggled with heat exhaustion.
“Andrews, who is normally our No. 2 runner, went down with heat exhaustion during the race and wasn’t able to finish,” Curtin said. “That held us back a little bit as a team.”
Stravach said that the team hadn’t anticipated the heat, making the race especially difficult for runners who weren’t prepared for the tough conditions.
Falling toward the middle of the pack, Emory’s men finished with an average 8K time of 26:42, 1.5 minutes off the No. 1 pace set by North Central College (Ill.).
Unlike the women, the men did not have an individual runner finish within the top 50. Senior Shane Sullivan crossed the finish line with Emory’s No. 1 time of 26:09. Sullivan placed No. 60 overall out of a field of 354 runners.
The team’s strategy was to conquer the hills.
“The course was composed of rolling hills with a few flat sections connecting those, creating big uphills and downhills,” Sullivan said. “As a result, our coach wanted us to take a more conservative approach and not make any big pushes throughout the race.”
Sophomores Luis Torres and Marty Pimentel, junior Bennett Shaw and freshman Matt Dillon joined Sullivan as Emory’s top five runners, each finishing within the top half of all runners.
Rather than relying on one individual to run a low time, the men will have to improve in the fourth or fifth spots to post a lower average time.
“Our guys are going to have to improve their time by sticking together and running in a good, solid pack,” Curtin said. “They will have to be strong in the fourth and fifth spots to make up for some points there, since they don’t have a clear lead runner.”
The NCAA Division III Championships will be held on Saturday’s course. Sullivan said that running the course prior to the November championships helped the runners prepare to tackle the course later this year.
Emory will race its top runners Oct. 28 in the UAA Championships at Garret Mountain Reservation in Woodland Park, N.J.