By BRITTANY BIGGS
In running, one of the biggest challenges is keeping up with a strong start. Do you take some gas off and slow down the pace to ensure a successful finish? Or do you keep speeding forward? The Red answered this question by continuing to push forward to an already successful season by coming in second place at the Paul Short Run in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Finishing only behind the University of Guelph, the No. 1 Canadian university team, the Red finished as the top NCAA squad, beating out schools such as James Madison and top ranked Division III national No. 1 Johns Hopkins.
Competing in two races, the Gold and the Open Race, the Red was able to secure points and top earners in both categories. Junior Taylor Spillane was able to continue her dominant season, finishing in fourth place in a field of over 300 athletes. Fellow point earners in the Gold division included senior Caroline Kellner, sophomore Shannon Hugard and freshman Gracie Todd and Jackie Katzman.
In the Open race, the Red was able to secure five of the top 15 spots in a field of 296 women. Freshman Briar Brumley was the first person from the Red to cross the line, coming in fourth place. She was joined by teammates freshman Annie Taylor, who came in ninth place, freshman Maggi Szpak, who finished tenth, junior Jessie Elliot, who finished thirteenth, and freshman Suzie Petryk, who finished 19th.
“I thought they competed very well,” said head coach Artie Smith. “Placing second and finishing as the top NCAA team — Guelph is not in the NCAA as they are in Canada — was a very good performance. It was a large field and the most competitive we’ve faced so far. Guelph won yesterday 2015 with essentially the same team that won in meet-record fashion in 2014. Last year, we had a good day and they beat us by 43 seconds, using the average of the top five times on each team. This year they only beat us by 10 seconds using that metric. We’ve clearly come a long way and yet I know there are things that we can improve on in our racing, especially in the second half of the race.”
Minor victories mean nothing if they do not appear be helping the Red eventually reach an overall goal. Smith’s group, however, seems to be on track to reach what they set out to do in the beginning of the season.
“We are knocking on the door of where we want to be,” Smith said. “Clearly the team is moving in a great direction, not just because of the many personal bests, despite the terrible weather and racing conditions, but because of their ability to compete well in a big field. We’re not where we want to end up, but we are certainly where we need to be right now. We want to get there at the right time of the season and we’re getting close.”
Some of the runners also said they feel that the team is making great strides towards a spectacular season finale.
“We’re always looking ahead at what we can work on and improve from week to week,” Hugard said. “I’m very excited about the strong team cohesion and work ethic that have put us in a good position at this point in the season.”
“We’re definitely at that point in the season when we’re absolutely chomping at the bit to get into some more competitive races,” Kellner said. “The composure and love of challenge that we displayed out there on the course definitely showed that we were ready to compete with anyone.”
As the team continues pushing forward, the Red said they hope Friday’s meet is a stepping stone towards future success.
“We still have two months to go, and it’s important to be patient and to keep moving forward,” Kellner said. “The best races are yet to come.”