Cross Country: Quest for Top 10 at NCAAs

  • By Daniel Whitehead
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  • November 19, 2011 01:41 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Seeking a Top 10 national finish for the fourth time in five years, the No. 9 West Virginia cross country team will compete at the NCAA Championship on Monday, Nov. 21, in Terre Haute, Ind.

The 6k women’s race begins at approximately 12:58 p.m. ET. Thirty-one teams were selected to participate in the race, which takes place at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course located at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center.

Along with facing No. 1 Florida State, No. 2 Villanova and No. 3 Washington, the Mountaineers will race against 24 other ranked programs.

“We simply need to go out and run to our capabilities,” says WVU coach Sean Cleary. “We are not looking for any miracles. Simple hard-nosed, consistent West Virginia running is what we are looking for. Should we run as we are prepared to run, we will look up at the scoreboard after the race and be very happy with our result. I believe that if we run the same race that we ran at BIG EAST and the NCAA regional, we will fall inside the Top 10.”

The starting lineup for the Mountaineers will be Kate Harrison, Kaitlyn Gillespie, Sarah-Anne Brault, Ahna Lewis, Kaylyn Christopher, Stephanie Aldea and Jordan Hamric. It marks the fourth time Christopher has run in the NCAA finals, matching Megan Metcalfe as the only other Mountaineer to run in four NCAA Championships.

“The course is not difficult but it can wear on you,” Cleary says. “The start of the NCAA Championship is so intense. There are 255 runners on the line sprinting for two to three minutes trying to position themselves for the first turn on the course. It is easy to get pinched to the outside if you are not in position. Getting yourself into position sometimes requires that you get yourself into oxygen debt earlier than anybody would like. We are fortunate to have a team with a great deal of experience.

“Any race that forces a runner to get out faster than she should presents the problem of her being fatigued late in the race. This course gets tough late because it starts to gently roll and the effort and pressure of the race can catch up with you. I am confident that my group understands its role for the team’s success.”

The Mountaineers came in ninth place in the 2007 race, fourth place in 2008 and sixth place in 2009. Last season, Gillespie and Brault qualified as individuals as Gillespie earned All-America honors with a 34th-place finish and Brault came in 71st place.

“Our challenge is to line up as healthy as we can," Cleary says. "The conditioning is in place and we are confident. It's important to understand that every team that has qualified for the finals is special. To come home feeling special, we simply need to stick to the basics and execute our plan without getting greedy.”

Results from the meet will be posted on ncaa.com and MSNsportsNET.com.

A live webcast of the championships will be broadcast from noon to 1:30 p.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 21, on ncaa.com. In addition, highlights from the championships will be included as part of the CBS NCAA Fall Seasonal Show scheduled to air on Saturday, Dec. 18, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. ET on CBS HD.

Further information regarding the 2011 NCAA Division 1 Cross Country Championships can be found at this link.

2011 Women’s NCAA Championship Field
No. 8 Arizona
Arizona State*
No. 14 Arkansas
No. 18 Boston College
Brigham Young*
No. 23 California*
No. 6 Colorado
No. 1 Florida State
No. 4 Georgetown
No. 7 Iowa State
No. 10 Michigan
No. 15 Michigan State
No. 28 Minnesota*
No. 11 New Mexico
No. 20 NC State
No. 29 Notre Dame*
No. 21 Penn State*
No. 22 Oklahoma State
No. 16 Oregon*
No. 26 San Francisco*
No. 13 Stanford*
No. 12 Syracuse
No. 17 Texas
No. 24 Toledo*
No. 5 Vanderbilt
No. 2 Villanova
No. 19 Virginia
No. 3 Washington
Weber State*
No. 9 West Virginia*
No. 25 Wisconsin*

* at-large selection


Sean Cleary, WVU Cross Country