By: Alice Coughlin
Berry College women's cross country team raced their season opener at the Berry College Invitational. The women's team raced 12 other teams in absolutely perfect race conditions. The morning's cool and sunny conditions set the stage for prime cross country racing. Emory University's womens team placed first with Shorter University taking second and Berry secured a close third place spot, only nine points away from Shorter's total team score.
The Lady Vikings had 13 current runners partake in the race, with one returning alumni, Courtney Cooper, also racing with the team unattached. Leading the team was senior stud-runner, Jennifer Cook. Cook dominated her first place position with a 25 second lead on Lee University's Maggie Opelt. Cook came in at a time of 18:21.90 for the 5K race course, making her concerted dominance appear effortless. Team captain, Sara Walcott, came in seventh place in a time of 19:16.02, undoubtedly starting the season off with an impressive race.
Lauren Nation, the team's only junior, came in third for the team in a time of 21:23.83. For Nation, the time and placing for the race are impressive, but what is more inspiring is her progress in the past year. At the same race in the 2010 cross country season, Nation was unable to participate due to injury and she missed out on the opportunity to race with her fellow teammates for a majority of the season. For this race, Nation demonstrated how committment to running in both difficult and successful times, will inevitably pay off in the long run.
This race was particularly exciting for the freshmen women's team members. After three weeks of college training, the freshmen had the opportunity to experience their first race on a collegiate team. First from the freshman ladies was Courtney Barker in a time of 21:57.40. Barker's time also bears added significance. Barker had been unable to participate in her senior high school cross country season due to an injury and has previously owned a personal record of 22:20 for a 5K. Even with apprehension about not having raced a 5K in two years, Barker was able to lead the freshmen and crush her previous best time.
In the same race pack with Barker was freshman Nicole Fredette in a time of 22:03.30 and Casey Norris in a time of 22:04.61. For Norris, this was her first time since her freshman year that she was able to run in the Berry College Invitational.
Also finishing for the Lady Vikings was freshman Leslie Stewart in a time of 22:46.79. Sophomore returner Charlotte Collins ran a time of 23:01.35 and senior Lauren Hicks raced the 5K in a time of 23:32.80. Coming in right behind Hicks were freshman Hibah Abuhamdieh in 23:43.44 and sophomore Katy Jordan in 23:43.79. Finishing out the team roster were freshmen training buddies Annika Stryker and Kayla Heflin in 25:12.71 and 25:13.39 respectively.
In their first competition, the Lady Vikings not only raced in a field of 126 participants, they raced against themselves, against the clock and against the unavoidable preseason nerves. With their first race completed, each runner has a tangible way to measure their current fitness and can start looking ahead to upcoming races for what they hope to improve upon. The next race for the women's team is at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio on Sept. 24.
- BerryVikings.com -