Mac Women’s XC: Seniors leave their mark as new era begins


The Macalester women’s cross country team is aiming to place in the top half of the conference at this Saturday’s MIAC Championships at Como Park Golf Course in St. Paul. The last time the team achieved this was in 2006. Photo courtesy of Gopher Sports Photos.

With hundreds of miles and countless hours of hard work under their belts, Macalester College Women’s Cross Country is gearing up for the post-season. The team has seen promising results in its first six meets of the year, and hopes to continue this form as they head into the MIAC and Regional Championships.


The team boasts some of the best depth in the conference, and may be the best that coach Betsy Emerson has seen since her arrival at Mac three years ago. In their ninth place showing at the Roy Griak Invitational (29 teams), the spread between Macalester’s fourth and tenth runners was just 20 seconds, and at the La Crosse Invitational, their 12th finisher ran a faster time than Mac’s seventh finisher last fall.

With a multitude of teammates running similar times, it allows them to key off one another in their workouts and races while minimizing the damage of one bad performance. “It always makes it easier to have teammates running with you,” said Sarah Jonathan ’16, the top returning sophomore.

Jonathan said that she thinks competition within the team helps everyone push a little harder and reach their full potential.

It also elevates the competition for a spot on the regionals team, where only seven run. “The first few spots are pretty clear, but once you get past three or four, it’s really up in the air,” Jonathan said.

After placing fifth on the team at the St. Kate’s Invitational, Jonathan slipped out of the top seven at UW-La Crosse where she finished eighth. “I would like to be in the top seven,” she said, “but I know that everyone in that top 11 wants to be in the top seven. It really has changed a lot throughout the whole season.”

The Scots’ depth has also helped them overcome adversity in the form of injuries to some key athletes. They have been without one of their captains and top returning runners in Lucy Andrews ’14. Andrews began the season with mononucleosis and suffered a stress fracture upon her return to running. However, she has not let her bad luck get the team down, and the freshmen have praised Andrews for her leadership and positive energy. “She’s always there cheering us on at every meet with all her heart,” said Kimber Meyer ’17, the team’s top competitor this fall. “She’s an inspiration.”

Fellow captain Becky Kane ‘14 has also been battling through injuries, along with promising newcomer Mira Ensley-Field ‘17. Andrews, Kane and Ensley-Field all plan to be on the starting line at MIAC.

The Old and the New

Out of 37 runners, Mac’s roster is bookended by large senior and freshman classes, with 13 and 14 athletes respectively. Fourteen of the team’s top 16 at La Crosse were from these two classes. “They (the seniors) have created this climate on the team that has really inspired their first year teammates to just keep going, to build on this, and to not be satisfied with what we have now, but to just think we could be even better,” Emerson said.

The team’s veterans have placed an emphasis on team bonding and community service, organizing volunteer work, holding team dinners and attending other fall sporting events. “Our seniors are just amazing leaders, all in their own way,” Emerson said. “They’re not all varsity runners, but it doesn’t matter. They bring something special to the team. From the moment I met them, I was just incredibly impressed with their maturity and their commitment to the program.”

The combination of team chemistry and great coaching has helped attract the new runners necessary to continue the team’s success on and off the course. It made the difference for Meyer. “I also looked at Grinnell and Carleton, but I really liked Betsy and everyone on the team,” she said. “There was a great atmosphere.”

Scots Aim For Top Six at MIAC

Macalester has not placed in the top half of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) since 2006. But with their highest finish at Griak in 10 years, there is reason to believe this team can change that and make a push for the podium in years to come. “The goal is definitely to finish in the top half and we think we can get the top five,” Meyer said.

To hit their goals, the Scots will need to place well among their rivals. St. Thomas and Macalester have gone back and forth in the regional rankings all season. The squads are 1-1 head-to-head in six kilometer races this year. At Griak, where both squads entered with notable injuries, Macalester defeated St. Thomas by 70 points. At the last meet in La Crosse, Ensley-Field missed out with an injury and St. Thomas and Gustavus were able to edge ahead.

A healthy squad would likely have resulted in the Scots moving ahead of both the Tommies and Gusties. The return of key runners for the conference meet should make an impact. The Bethel Royals, Scots, Gusties and Tommies will likely be fighting for the fourth to seventh spots in the conference. “If people really put together, collectively, great races we can finish higher than that (sixth),” Emerson said. “I believe we can be fifth, but to be fifth we have to beat a great team like Gustavus or St. Thomas.”

Could a great, collective race be possible? Mac has seen a steady progression from meet to meet and appear to be peaking at just the right time. “Last week Betsy said that 22 out of 27 people had all-time PRs (personal records) and everyone else had season PRs,” Jonathan said. “People are getting a lot faster.”

On an individual level, Meyer will look to be the first Scot to take All-MIAC honors since 2009. Meyer set the six kilometer school record two weeks ago at La Crosse, running a 22:38 (6:01 mile pace) to finish four seconds faster than the previous record set by Koby Hagen in 2005. Her impressive record in the race earned her the MIAC Athlete of the Week award. She was the third MIAC finisher at La Crosse, where nine teams (out of 12) from the conference ran their top squads.

Other contenders who did not compete at La Crosse include St. Kate’s junior Ailee Larson and Carleton’s duo of junior Colette Celichowski and sophomore Ruth Steinke. The Scots have not had anyone place in the top five at MIAC since 2005 but the odds are favorable for Meyer. “There are not many women in the conference, or our region, that can beat her,” said Emerson.

The MIAC Cross Country Championships will be held this Saturday, the 2nd of November, at Como Golf Course in St. Paul, four miles from campus. The gun goes off at 2:15 for the women’s race and 3:15 for the men’s.

Central Region Championships

Two weeks after MIAC, the Scots’ top seven runners head to St. Olaf where they will compete in the regional championships. The Central Region consists of seven states and 28 teams primarily from the midwest. In addition to improving on their eighth place MIAC finish last season, the Scots have high hopes for regionals, where they have placed 11th three times in the past seven years.

The top two teams from each region will qualify for the National Championships in Indiana, and they will be joined by 16 other at-large teams. Wartburg, ranked second in the country, is the favorite to win the region, with no. 14 Carleton, no. 23 St. Olaf and no. 30 St. Benedict’s most likely duking it out for the second spot.

The top seven individual not on an already-qualifying team also earn their tickets to the National Championships. Macalester has had eight national qualifiers in its history and they are hoping to increase that number this year. “I believe that both Kimber and Anna Schmitz have a chance of making it to the national meet and if that is the case our team is going to do extremely well,” Emerson said.

Titles in the future?

While championships may not be within reach this year, Emerson said she believes the team will continue to improve and put themselves into striking range in the next few years.

“If we could get a few more really blue-chip type runners into this program we could definitely knock on some doors for being a conference contender,” Emerson said. “There are two things that run through my mind: one is a common thing that most of us coaches think about and that is, I want to win a conference championship”

Additional reporting and contributions from Trevor Maggart and Ben Bartenstein.