The Women’s Cross Country team competed in the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth Invitational last Saturday, Sept. 20, working to place second overall out of the 38 teams competing.
In a meet where they were the lone Div. III team present, the Hawks excelled, outrunning Div. I College of Holy Cross, Div. II Bentley University and notably, Brandeis, which is ranked No. 9 team in the New England Region. New Paltz finished just short of Div. II East Stroudsberg with a deficit of 10 points.
Head Coach Mike Trunkes said placing second in this competition against teams with a higher rank strengthens their position for at-large bids at the end of the year when nationals approach.
“I think they ran an excellent race. It was pretty impressive performance on their part,” Trunkes said. “Most of the meets we run in are against Div. III [teams] so we went primarily to compete against out-of-region competition. For us, to go out of region and beat a top ten team in the New England Region, which historically is one of the best, is very important.”
Fourth-year women’s runner Terisa Woych was the top finisher for New Paltz, tacking a seventh place title in the event of 272 runners. Woych surpassed an all-time school-record for fastest 5K time by more than 30 seconds, finishing in at 18:15.4, averaging to 5:52.5 per mile.
She was named SUNYAC Female Runner of the Week on Monday for her strong performance at the meet.
Among other top placers for the Hawks were fourth-year Maggie Verspoor, 18th at 18:43.4 and fourth-year Gabby Mancuso, 19th at 18:46.1. The women’s team averaged a time of 18:50 overall in the event and totaled 113 points for the top Div. III team in the rankings.
Woych said as one who was never a runner before she joined the team her first year at New Paltz, notching a school record was proof that all of her training has been worth it.
“Setting a new 5K record was something I’d never dreamed of accomplishing coming into this program,” Woych said. “I’ve learned to love this sport and setting the record was the most incredible affirmation that hard work and dedication pays off. The achievement is elating.”
Woych said the team is powered up for the rest of the season with high morale. With three productive meets already trumped, qualifying either individually or as a team for the NCAA Div. III National Competition seems possible.
“Nationals in Ohio is so incredibly tangible, and the meet at UMass Dartmouth just reaffirmed how strong we are,” she said. “Teams there were actually heard saying ‘oh man, New Paltz is here.’ It’s all we can talk about on our long runs.”
Based on the team’s performances so far this season Trunkes said he has the same season outlook.
“[The] women’s team is very strong so they could do something really special at the end of the year,” he said. “With the way that they ran the other day, they can keep that momentum from that competition and build on that going into the final championship which is where the qualifiers are.”
Being that the team’s season spans well into the middle of November, Trunkes said keeping a steady pace and not exhausting themselves by the end of the season is extremely necessary for this sport. If the team wants to race well at the end of the season, he said, they can’t race every weekend because it will physically take a toll on them.
“If you look at it closely, even though the other teams that we’re running against will have one or two more meets on their schedule, they’re not running their top runners all the time,” Trunkes said. “Rest is really important, and [so is] being in a position to where you don’t burn out by the end.”
Three runners who were all top five last year, fourth-year Bridgette Joskow, second-year Taryn Colon and second-year Katie Gantley, haven’t hit their performance threshold yet this season because of sustaining injuries. Trunkes said due to the unpredictabilities of injury in this sport, it is hard to gauge how much the team will change as the season progresses.
“What we do for this point in the season is just practice for is what to come in the end. If we do well along the way, its an indication that we’re doing the right things and have a strong team, but it doesn’t necessarily predict how the end of the season could play out,” Trunkes said. “The landscape of the end of the season and the makeup of the team and the dynamic of the team could change dramatically over the next month. [But] I like where we’re at with the women’s team.”
Looking forward, Woych sees keeping up with consistency as the key to propelling the team forward at their next event, the Paul Short 6k Invitational in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The team is focusing on using this meet as another sustained workout effort, she said, and by emphasizing on running in packs, the team will be able to build together through the race.