Last year, men’s cross country finished 11th out of 55 teams at the DIII New England Regionals in November. The team achieved a total time of 2:13.40 in the 8K race, placing it just 4 minutes and 25 seconds behind first-place finisher Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The meet rounded out a solid season for the team. Though the Cardinals came in third place in the Little Three Championship at the start of the season, their average time was only 53 seconds behind first-place finisher Amherst. Wesleyan has won the Little Three 20 times since 1923, compared to 57 titles for Williams and 9 for Amherst. The team will face Williams and Amherst again at the Little Three Championship this Saturday, Sept. 8.
Similarly, the women’s cross country team earned third place at the 2017 Little Three Championship. They finished with an average 5K time 56 seconds behind that of Williams, the 2017 Little Three Champion. The team finished seventh at the NESCAC Championship midway through the season. Wesleyan last took this title in 1984. At the season’s close, the team finished ninth out of 56 teams at Regionals.
“We had really strong showings from all members of the team and really worked on racing as a pack throughout the season,” said Sara Pinsonault ’20.
Pinsonault added that she and her teammates worked hard through the summer and adds that they are very excited for this coming season.
“Our biggest challenge outside of competition will be trying to stay as healthy as possible throughout the season so each member of the team can perform and run at their greatest potential,” she said. “I think one of the things that will help us throughout the season is that our team is so close outside of practice and meets.”
In competition, Pinsonault thinks the team’s greatest challenge will be earning a spot at nationals, which is the team’s goal every season. A total of 32 teams will race at nationals, with the top two finishers at each regional championship automatically earning a spot. Additionally, there are 16 at-large bids, for which the qualifiers include late-season performance, point gaps at regionals and throughout the season, and head-to-head competition with teams that have already earned a place at the championship.
This year appears to be a growth season for the men’s team, with no seniors and a near even distribution of freshman, sophomores, and juniors.
“The juniors are really stepping up, and the freshman have all bought in, which is great to see so early,” says Benjamin Cahill ’21. Cahill believes there is potential for the season after a strong alumni race. “Even though we’re not the biggest or deepest NESCAC team, we’ve got a lot of talent and fitness already, and a high ceiling going forward.”
The women’s team is the opposite.
“We barely graduated anyone off varsity,” says captain Julia Mitchell ’19.
Mitchell adds that the Cardinals had a strong track season, which she is confident will translate into success this fall.
“With more success comes more pressure, and I think we are all trying to find the line between excitement and unhealthy nerves,” she said. “Luckily, our team is very supportive and has a very strong sense of community that helps alleviate some of the stress felt.”
At the start of the season, the team is expressing confidence that they hope will help carry them to nationals. Besides Pinsonault and Mitchell, sophomores Rebecca Lopez-Anido and Emma Trapani also point at the team’s camaraderie and togetherness as virtues that they believe keep their team strong.
“I think our biggest challenge this season will be staying confident and strong when faced with great competition,” Lopez-Anido said.
In another walk of life, the Wesleyan runners matched their athletic success on the academic front. Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams earned All-Academic honors in their 2017 seasons. To achieve All-Academic honors, teams have to have a team GPA of 3.10 or higher.
This year’s NESCAC Championship will be hosted by Tufts University on Oct. 27. The last time the men’s team won the championship was in 1993, when they tied with Colby College. As for the women, 1984 was the last year that the team won the championship.
Should the Cardinals perform well at New England Regionals on Nov. 10, we may see them in Oshkosh, Wis., for the 2018 DIII National Championship on Nov. 17.
Sarah Wu can be reached at email@example.com.