Cross Country: Racing for a League Title

  • By Daniel Whitehead
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  • October 27, 2011 01:57 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Coming off a first-place finish at the Penn State National, the No. 18 West Virginia cross country team looks to build on the momentum as it heads to the BIG EAST Championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, in Louisville, Ky.

The women’s 6k race at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park is slated to begin at 11:50 a.m. The Mountaineers will take on league foes No. 4 Villanova, No. 6 Georgetown, No. 7 Providence, No. 9 Syracuse, No. 23 Notre Dame, No. 28 Connecticut and several other traditionally strong programs USF, Cincinnati, DePaul and host Louisville.

“This will be the most competitive BIG EAST race since this league was constructed,” says WVU coach Sean Cleary. “I feel that after the national championships in November, all of the ranked teams from the BIG EAST will finish higher than their current ranking. There are four teams in the league that believe they can win the national title.

“Villanova has won more NCAA cross country titles than any other program, while Providence has the longest consecutive qualifying streak of any team. Georgetown and Villanova have both been ranked No. 1 in the country over the last month, so this race will be very difficult.”

The potential starting lineup for the Mountaineers will be Kate Harrison, Kaitlyn Gillespie, Sarah-Anne Brault, Ahna Lewis, Kaylyn Christopher, Stephanie Aldea, Aubrey Moskal, Hallie Portner, Jordan Hamric and Sarah Martinelli.

Last year, the Mountaineers came in fifth place at the BIG EAST Championship with 149 points led by sophomore Kaitlyn Gillespie, who finished in 10th place in 21:17. Sarah-Anne Brault arrived second for the team in 22nd place, while Ahna Lewis came in 33rd. Villanova, Georgetown and Syracuse, respectively, took the top three team finishes at the 2010 race.

WVU has familiarity with the course as the Mountaineers competed at the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic on Oct. 1, coming away with an eighth-place finish at the 5k race. The last time the Mountaineers raced in Louisville for the BIG EAST meet was in 2007, when WVU won its first-ever conference title.

“Having run at Louisville already can only help our group,” Cleary says. “We are familiar with the area and the course and our girls love it. It's fast and fair for a BIG EAST Championship. We won the BIG EAST on this course four years ago, and that is not lost on this group.

“We have the pieces in place to have our best race of the season and we’ve witnessed a steady improvement as a group. We are excited to test ourselves against this level of competition.”

The race can be seen live on bigeast.org.

Results from the meet will be posted on MSNsportsNET.com and at bigeast.org/crosscountry. Updates will occur throughout the competition via Twitter @BigEastConf.

Click here to view the women’s 6k course map at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park.


Sean Cleary, WVU Cross Country

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