By: Alice Coughlin
The Lady Vikings traveled north for their second competition of the season at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. The Otterbein Invitational was the women's team first away meet and their first time facing a 6K race distance for the season. The women's team placed 6th overall out of 14 teams with 166 total points. Coming in first was Centre College with 49 points, in second place was De Pauw University with 57 points and in third place was the host school, Otterbein University, with 76 points.
In a field of 152 runners, the women's team averaged a time of 25:10 for the 6K distance. Leading the team and the race was Jennifer Cook. Cook had a 15 second lead on the second place finisher and completed the race in a phenomenal personal record of 22:40. Cook's race not only proves her current level of running fitness, but also that her dominance derives from more than just a home course advantage. Not far behind Cook was Captain Sara Walcott in 6th place with a time of 23:24. In Walcott's hard-fought race, she was able to take 10 seconds off of her previous personal record.
Junior Lauren Nation finished in 46th place in a finishing time of 25:34. Although cross country places a considerable amount of emphasis on the final race time, the splits in between the start and the finish are equally important in order to assess a race. According to Coach Paul Deaton, Nation had a strong race with even splits. One of Nation's season goals is to break 21 minutes in the 5K. In today's race, Nation's 5K split was 21:13 within a much longer race. Nation's race was a crucial performance in order to pursue her 5K goal time.
Sophomore Charlotte Collins placed 77th in the race with a time of 26:52. Although Collins had uncertainty about her performance earlier this season, this particular race has increased her racing confidence and much like Nation, she feels that she is progressing towards her goals.
Coming behind Collins was a pack of three freshmen runners. Courtney Barker came in 83rd place in a time of 27:20. Following Barker was Leslie Stewart in 89th place and a time of 27:29. The third member of the freshmen trio was Nicole Fredette in 94th place and a time of 27:41.
The final two Lady Vikings were Hibah Abuhamdieh and Kayla Heflin. Abuhamdieh placed 128th in 29:27, generously breaking the 30 minute mark. Heflin raced to 135th place in 30:31.
This competition was particularly crucial for the attending freshmen of the team. The privilege of traveling overnight for a meet and also experiencing a 6K for the first time were exciting and crucial experiences. Freshman Kayla Heflin enjoyed the extra time with the team and felt that it focused her for the race on Saturday. Even on an unfamiliar course, Heflin believes that the 6K race experience will help her in improving her 5K time.
In racing their first 6K of the season, the Lady Vikings had solid performances while earning several individual personal records. The Berry cross country teams hit the road again for the Gibson Family Invitational in Terre Haute, Indiana on Oct. 8.