By Jakob Wartman
A strong senior class has once again assumed the reins of the women’s cross country team after qualifying for nationals last season for the first time since 1999. The team, who lost five of its top eight runners to graduation and finished 21st in the nation last year, appears to be on a similar trajectory this fall.The team again won the St. Catherine Triangular, beating 23rd nationally ranked St. Olaf and once again placed second at the St. Olaf Invitational.And again the Scots are lead on and off the course by a strong senior class made up of all-region runner and co-captain Callie PaStarr ’07, Anna Shamey ’07, Allie Woerpel ’07, and co-captain Kate Lechner ’07.”During the early part of this season, however, many felt like the team was missing the leadership of last year’s class, both physically and mentally,” PaStarr said. But according to Coach Jordan Cushing the seniors have taken their role and assumed the leadership.”The seniors have seen what teams have done in the past and have brought it up to that level.” Cushing said. “They have worked hard to get it done. There may not be as much hoopla as last year, but they got a taste of it and all five of them are really excited to get it done this year.”The Scots will need the leadership; first-years make up two fifths of the roster and several first-years have already placed in Macalester’s top ten. Erin Lowery ’10 has already found herself as either Mac’s number two and three runner while Emilie Schur ’10 finished fourth for Mac at the St. Catherine Triangular before being sidelined with a stress fracture.While PaStarr has lead the team with sixth and fifth place finishes at the past two races, the success of the team lies in the front five runner’s ability to stay packed and close the gaps between racers, Cushing said. At St. Olaf, Macalester’s top five racers, PaStarr, Shamey, Lowery, Kim Wortman ’08, and Worpel, were separated by under a minute, keeping the spread and the score low.Even with this tight front pack, Cushing worries about the gap between the top five and the sixth and seventh racers who finished more than a minute and a half behind at St. Olaf. “At this point there is no one behind them to help them out. The front pack is crucial.”The gap between fifth and sixth isn’t keeping Macalester from turning heads. Macalester is once again drawing attention especially from skeptics who thought this would be a year of rebuilding, thinking the loss of seniors would be too much for the Scots to overcome. “I do think it is a rebuilding year, but in terms of depth,” Cushing said. “And I think we will see that next pack step it up soon.”Cushing is also concentrating on keeping each member of the team healthy after losing some key members to injury last season and learning from each race what the team needs to do to be running its best in November.”I am impressed with how it is going,” PaStarr said, “I feel like we’ve had some tough times with injuries and burnouts, but we’ve tried to stay on top of our game and we have yet to see our full potential.”Looking toward the future, Macalester has its challenge set out in regard to returning to nationals. The central region is again stacked with national contenders and has six teams ranked nationally in the top 30.”I think if we all step back and look at where we are and the potential we do have,” PaStarr said, “people will believe in themselves to do big things.””I think our best [results] will come at regionals when we qualify for nationals,” Lechner said,” and [nationals] will be our best race.”The Scots will next travel to Chicago to defend their title at the Loyola Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational and continue to learn what needs to be done before they put it all on the line in early November.