Women’s XC looks forward to MIAC Championships

By Shasta Webb

The 2012 Macalester women’s Cross Country team has reached the eve of its final test: the MIAC Championships. For some women on the team, the MIAC meet, which takes place on October 27 at 3:15 p.m.. at Como Park, will be the final race of their collegiate athletic careers. For these particular seniors, the meet will be bittersweet—a chance for the runners to demonstrate four years of dedication and perseverance and to say goodbye to a team that has largely shaped these women’s experiences. The championship meet isn’t only significant for the senior women on the team, but also the rest of the Lady Scots. Coach Betsy Emerson, who began coaching at Macalester three years ago, has confidence that her team will perform well at the conference meet. “If we can get everyone running well at conference, we could potentially be 7th in the conference. For that to happen, everything has to fall into place, and all of our women have to run well. I’m very confident that will happen.” For some programs, seventh place might sound like a low goal, but for the Lady Scots, it’s important to reach that next goal. The previous two seasons, Mac has placed ninth. “I’ve coached a lot of teams that have been competitive regionally and nationally. I don’t want to have pipe dreams. You have to start somewhere and we’re heading in the right direction,” Emerson said. The season thus far has been a successful one, which is attributable not only to excellent coaching from Emerson, but also to the undying commitment from team members. Emerson explained that this year, the team is “not settling for mediocrity, but trying to get over that hump where we really are aspiring to be as good as we can be.” Upperclassmen leadership is key on any team, and Cross Country is no exception. Captains Rachel Gunsalus ’13, Tess Carley ’13, and Anna French ’13 have not only proven themselves successful, strong racers, but also capable team leaders. Improvement has been the theme of this season—in training as well as racing. Many runners have improved their race times over the course of this season. Just last weekend at a rainy, muddy race in LaCrosse, WI, 16 out of 25 Macalester runners achieved lifetime personal bests. Diane Rubin ’13 and Lucy Andrews ’14, both team members since their first years at Mac, were among those who reached personal bests, even in unfavorable conditions. “My initial goal was to contribute to the team’s scoring and to run a sub-24:15 6K. Personally, I’m surprised I ran 23:51 this past weekend—the course was unbelievably muddy, the weather wasn’t favorable, and we hadn’t been tapering at all. I expected that time at the conference meet in a week and a half,” Andrews said. Gunsalus is perhaps the most inspirational story this year: a middle-of-the-pack racer for much of her time at Mac, she is now leading the team along with French. “I didn’t have many personal goals at the beginning of the season,” explained Gunsalus. “I just wanted to see how summer training would pay off.” The Mac women aren’t quick to talk about personal goals, but seem to be much more team oriented. “Goal number one is always to be the team having the most fun. I can say with confidence we are achieving this goal. I also wanted to see the team get faster as a whole, which has definitely happened,” French explained. Most of the team has only ever raced under the mentorship of Emerson, but for the seniors, they had to transition to a new leader at the start of their sophomore year. “When I first started here, I think the program was going through a tough transitional time,” Emerson said. “I felt like there was a need to shift the culture a little bit, from being just okay with being one of the bottom teams in the conference to not being okay with that. We can be an excellent Cross Country program. There is no doubt in my mind.” The transition seems to have been seamless, as players have only positive reviews of Emerson’s career at Mac thus far. “Betsy is phenomenal. She values us as whole people—we are not just runners, we are also students and employees and friends and daughters. She recognizes that our priorities shift and that we also have other commitments we must honor,” Andrews said. “Betsy has really been making us do a lot of pushups, so we can now bench approximately the same amount as the average football player,” Carley explained. While the season has been a generally successful one, it hasn’t been without challenges. A couple of runners decided not to rejoin the team this season and two top teammates have taken semesters off for work and health-related reasons. “If you include those people, all of the sudden we’re vying for the top five or six in the conference,” said Emerson. “Every team in the conference deals with challenges like these, though.” The cross country season isn’t the longest one, spanning only two months during the regular season, but it’s certainly grueling. Racers commit hours every day to training for competition, and the only way to get better at running, is, well, running. A chore for the rest of us, running is what drives and brings together these inspirational women. “A lot of solidarity is created when you are waking up at 7 and 8 AM on Saturdays and Sundays to go race or run 10 miles together, which we do most weekends,” Carley said. With only two weeks left in their cross country careers, the seniors are trying to put the season in perspective. “It’s surreal to be in the final season of Mac Cross Country, as it’s been such a cornerstone of my experience the past four years. Of course, the great thing about running is that it doesn’t require much more than a pair of sneakers to do, so even though I won’t be with the team next year, it’s comforting to know that I can take it with me wherever I go.” refresh –>