The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Cross country standing on strong legs for the MIACs

By Nate Wilson-Traisman

Last Saturday the Macalester women’s cross country team ran to a 17th place finish out of 37 teams at the highly competitive Roy Griak Invitational in Falcon Heights. Erin Lowery ’10 led the way for the Scots, placing 23rd in the massive field of 500 runners. Lowery finished the 6-kilometer race in 23 minutes, 32.65 seconds, ninth best of competing MIAC runners.

“I would like to work on finishing stronger than I did at Griak,” Lowery said. “There were a lot of MIAC runners right in front of me and passing them would have improved our team score.”

The Roy Griak is the largest race the Scots compete in this year, and both Lowery and coach Jordan Cushing pointed to the race’s size as an obstacle in running the ideal race. Lowery noted that the sheer number of participants makes it difficult to know where teammates are running, while Cushing said that the size often makes mistakes more visible.

“Unfortunately, it [Roy Griak] magnifies if you make a mistake, which is what happened to us on Saturday,” Cushing said. “Our second through fifth runners got out too slow and we just couldn’t make it up in such a large field. I know our finish there is not an accurate reflection of where we are talent/fitness wise.”

Despite Cushing’s disappointment, this year’s team has much to be excited about. Several returnees have made great strides in lowering times, and freshman Tess Carley has made big contributions finishing sixth, third and second respectively, for Macalester in its first three meets.

Carley, along with Libby Tollefson ’11, Tara McCoy ’11, and Lena Sessions ’10 have emerged as top five runners for the Scots. Tollefson and McCoy have both notched second place finishes already this year, while Sessions, a non-scoring runner a year ago, has finished fourth for Macalester in all three meets. Kira Spencer ’10 has also run well this year, finishing third for the Scots and 139th overall at the Roy Griak.

“We’ve had some upperclassmen make huge jumps this year after working hard this summer, which is helping us out immensely,” Lowery said. “It’s created a really cool atmosphere on the team, to have people racing faster than they ever thought they could. We also have a huge freshman class with a ton of potential. They race so tough every weekend and we are really excited to see what they can do this year and in the future.”

Cushing echoed Lowery’s sentiments regarding the improvement of several runners.

“There are number of runners who put in impressive summers of training,” Cushing said. “Lena Sessions, Tara McCoy, Libby Tollefson, Robin Major ’11 and Sara Gottlieb ’10 stand out as having taken a serious step up in training and where they are at this season.”

The men’s cross country team also saw a dominant individual performance from one of their own, as Wade Ekstrom ’10 finished 20th in the field of 370 runners at the Roy Griak.

Ekstrom finished in 26:31, with Carl Biggers ’12 finishing second for the Scots and 79th overall in 27:34. Nick Mangigian ’10 also finished in the top half of the field, finishing 159th with a time of 28:40. Maclaester finished 21st in the 35-team meet.

Mangigian noted the difficulties of running in such a huge field, and said a race like the Griak doesn’t necessarily cater to the Scots’ strengths.

“Big fields are double-edged swords for our team,” Mangigian said. “On one hand, we benefit because our front-runner, Wade, is going to pull in a low card for us no matter what the size of the field. On the other hand, our numbers three through five are significantly slower than most teams’ three through five, so we really get sandbagged in the bigger field.”

Mangigian emphasized that getting the times of the three through five runners closer to Biggers at number two, will be pivotal to their success. Ollie St. John ’12, who Mangigian said, “ran a 5:21 mile holding an eight-pound medicine ball,” has shown potential, finishing third for the Macalester in every meet other than the Griak. Mangigian has also shown dramatic improvement and will be relied on as the team’s number four runner. Still, the team is young and will need significant contributions from sophomores in order to succeed.

“I started the season thinking about breaking 27 [minutes], but if I could get in the middle/low end of that number at MIAC this season, I think that would be something I could be proud of,” Mangigian said.

One link the Scots know they don’t have to worry about is Ekstrom, who’s on his way to another phenomenal season. At the Grinnell Invitational three weeks ago, Ekstrom finished an impressive second overall in the field of 214, and two weeks ago at the St. Olaf Invitational, Ekstrom finished 3rd out of 244 runners.

“It’s a real thrill to have him [Ekstrom] representing Mac, wearing orange, at the top of almost every race,” Mangigian said. “During practice, he’s in a league of his own. Our number two can sort of keep up with him for some workouts, but even on easy days it’s hard to run with Wade.”

With the MIAC championships less than one month away, the performance of Macalester’s third through sixth runners will be key in determining their conference success. The Scots had a relapse last year, finishing eighth in the MIAC after top four finishes in 2006 and 2007, so a top four finish would be a significant step forward for the program.

“Getting back into the top four, and getting to Nationals, have been our goals,” Mangigian said. “Realistically, if we went sixth this year that’d be better than eighth. If we could sneak into the top five that would actually be pretty cool, since it’d mean we were beating some good teams.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams race again today, at the UW- Eau Claire Blugold Invitational in Colfax, Wisconsin

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