It was a sunny Saturday afternoon in Montreal as women’s cross country ran to a first place finish at the annual McGill Invitational. Enjoying the sunny skies, comfortable 65-degree temperatures and a pleasingly dry course, the 21 women competing experienced great success.
The McGill Invitational included a seven-team field this year, with Williams acting as the sole United States representative. With the women running a four-kilometer course, as opposed to the traditional five-kilometer course that the Williams women are used to, the race proved to be a successful start to the official competitive season.
The course consisted of a large loop that took runners on a gradual uphill slope for the first kilometer, which led into a wooded trail and finished on a grassy downhill. The entire loop was two kilometers long and each runner completed two consecutive loops during the race.
The Williams women put forth a strong effort to outrun the six Canadian teams and take home the invitational title. Leading the team, as well as the entire field, was co-captain Julia Bensen ’03, who was the first woman in Williams history to win the invitational.
Bensen’s time of 14:03 was followed closely by newcomer Jenn Campbell ’05, who finished third overall with a time of 14:25. The next finisher for Williams was co-captain Katie Sharff ’02, who took 15th place with her solid time of 15:04. Close behind Sharff was Paige McClanahan ’04, who finished in 17th place with a time of 15:13. Coming in only a few places behind McClanahan was Katie Davisson ’05 in 21st place with a time of 15:18. Finishing two spots behind Davisson with a 15:26 finishing time was Eve Besant ’04 and rounding out the top seven finishers was Danner Hickman ’05, in 25th place with a time of 15:29.
Three out of the top seven finishers were first-year students who are new to the Division III athletic circuit. Following closely behind the top seven were the next six Williams finishers, who all managed times under the 16:00 mark. These six women include Laura Bothwell ’02, Ann Schorling ’03, captain Terri O’Brien ’02, Heath Lindenman ’04, Kali Moody ’05 and Katie Marsh ’05.
Strong finishes were demonstrated by all members of the team as the field was completed by the following women: Marsha Habib ’05, Erin Kempster ’04, Sarah Iams ’04, Jen Cahill ’02, Zinnia Wilson ’05, Carolyn Dekker ’05, Janine Kagle ’05 and Krista Harrison ’04.
The entire Williams team put forth a tremendous effort with a total of 21 women completing the four-kilometer loop. Unfortunately, the team was short five women who are currently out with injuries, but will hopefully be up and running within the week. These team members include: Jonnie Vasse ’02, Miranda Whitmore ’02, Alicia Andrews ’03, Bethany Smith ’05 and Susie Theroux ’05. Andrews and Theroux both joined the team in Montreal and provided some greatly appreciated cheering and motivation for their teammates.
When asked about his feelings regarding the first official meet of the season, Pete Farwell, head cross country coach, said the meet “exceeded my expectations in regard to places and times. . .a lot of progress has been made in two weeks with training. It’s going very well.”
Farwell also pin-pointed what he felt were three highlights of Saturday’s competition: the depth of the team and the packing (running in groups) during the race, the team spirit and the work ethicâ€”from top to bottom and great out-in-front running by Bensen and Campbell’s impressive move from 14th place to third place within the second loop.
Some of the members of the team also had positive things to say about the efforts: “I’m really excited about our team; there is a lot of depth and new talent. It’s going to be a great season!” said Bensen.
When asked about the team’s progress, co-captain Scharff said, “I think the team has come together well. Everyone has a really positive attitude and is improving on their summer training, with the increased focus on speed and strength, the future outlook is promising.”
The attitude on Sunday’s bus ride home was resoundingly positive, as the team returned from what all members will think of as an extremely enjoyable and memorable weekend.
The women’s cross country team is looking forward to the upcoming week of training and preparing for the Purple Valley Classic, which will be hosted by Williams on Saturday.