By Josh Springer
After yet another unfulfilling MIAC conference meet, the women’s cross country team overcame the doubts and rallied to produce a solid the regional performance, qualifying the team for nationals for the first time since 1999. Last Saturday, the Scots placed fourth out of 23 in a competitive field of teams at the NCAA Central Regional Championships at Wartburg College in Iowa. Placing fifth in the MIAC conference championship three weeks ago was an obvious disappointment for the women, who have been nationally ranked all season. Although there were a couple standout individual races, the team as a whole was unable to meet expectations. Many thought that Mac would not be able to regroup in time to achieve their goal of earning a national berth. However, the team did not let the setback from MIAC cloud their determination as they grabbed the final qualifying spot. For the seniors, who have been striving for a bid to run in the National Championships for four years, the results of team’s success at regionals could not have brought more joy and pride. “After our poor showing at MIAC, we were very content to hear that we had qualified,” Koby Hagen ’06 said. Four Mac women ran well enough to earn All-Region honors last weekend, as opposed to only one from last year’s race. Hagen placed an impressive 10th overall with a time of 23:12 on the hilly 6,000 meter course. Team captain and fellow senior Francie Streich ’06 came across the line next for Mac with a finishing time of 23:51, good enough for 24th place. Emily Stafford ’06 and Callie PaStarr ’07 both had exceptionally strong finishes, finishing closely behind Streich in 25th and 29th place respectively. Coming in fifth for Mac was Caroline Barnes ’06 in a time of 24:30, which got her a 52nd place finish overall. Sixth and seventh spots on the team went to Anna Shamey ’07 and Anna Gordon ’06. Head Coach Jordan Cushing acknowledged the team’s strong individual performances as greatly contributing to Mac’s success. “Having four women in the top-30 at the regional meet is an accomplishment few teams are capable of,” Cushing said. The Scots made impressive jumps up from last year’s regional meet. Hagen went from 22nd place in 2004 to 10th. Streich moved up to 24th place from a 38th. Stafford saw a significant regional improvement as she moved up 27 spots to finish in 25th place. Regardless of apparent individual successes, Cushing also made it clear that the accomplishments Mac has achieved this year all are products of a strong and unified team effort. Having the gift of a large and enthusiastic class of first-years as well as supportive and contributing sophomores and juniors has, throughout the season, molded the team into the national qualifiers they are now, she said. “They have a belief in each other and with that persistent belief, the girls have been able to fight through both injury and disappointment.” The team will send seven runners plus one alternate to nationals. In an unusual move, Cushing has replaced captain Gordon with regional alternate Allie Woerpel ’07, who has spent a majority of the season out from a leg injury. “It’s difficult because there are so many strong runners who can contribute to the team,” said Barnes. Other members of the team expressed the emotional weight that came with the decision, but said they remained focused on the success of their season and depth of the team. The Scots are ranked 25th in the polls going into the NCAA Division III national meet, held in Delaware, Ohio. Although they are not highly ranked among other teams competing, the women remain confident that they will strongly represent Macalester College and the cross country program.