By: Alice Coughlin
The Lady Vikings competed on their home course for the Southeast Classic. The starting line was filled with an impressive 310 harriers for the women's 5K race. Teams from across the southeast and as far north as Indiana participated in the 35 team cross country race. In first place for the team score was Indiana Wesleyan with 107 points. Centre College came in second place with 116 points and Embry Riddle University placed third with 134 points. The Lady Vikings placed 11th as a team with 286 points.
The month of October and the Southeast Classic in particular, are crucial points in the cross country season. It is at this point in the season when the runners are able to truly see the gains from their efforts from workouts and previous races. The anticipation and hopes for their races were evident before the starting gun fired.
Senior Jenn Cook led the team, once again, in an impressive second place finish in a time of 18:07, just 18 seconds behind the first place finisher. For Cook, this was her last 5K on the team's home course and it was her final cross country 5K of her collegiate career. Cook made her final cross 5K an incredible one. Her finishing time denotes a personal record in the 5K distance. Of Cook's race, Coach Paul Deaton commented that it was not only Cook's time which was significant, but that, "her race was beautifully put together from start to finish."
Senior Sara Walcott, also raced her last collegiate 5K on a cross country course. Similarly to Cook, Walcott used her last opportunity in a truly inspiring way. Walcott came in 10th place in a cross country 5K personal record of 18:49. Not only was Walcott's time a PR, but she was able to run the course under the looming 19-minute mark.
Next for the team was junior Lauren Nation in 81st place. One of Nation's major aspirations for this season was to break 21 minutes in a 5K. Nation proved that she was beyond capable of running under 21 minutes by running a finishing time of 20:32.
In fourth place for the team and 110st for the race was Courtney Barker. Barker ran a personal record of 21:05, which was 52 seconds faster than her best 5K of the season. Behind Barker was junior Charlotte Collins in 124th place and a time of 21:12. Collins also improved upon her first 5K of the season in a major way. Collins bettered her time by an entire minute and 38 seconds. Senior Lauren Hicks raced to 198th place in a time of 22:29. Hicks' time improved by 55 seconds from the Viking's first race of the season.
Next for the team were sophomores Katy Jordan and Allison Preg with nearly matching times. Jordan placed 210th in 22:49 and Preg came in 211th place in 22:50. This was Preg's second race of the season and her first race on the Viking's home course. Preg's goal for her race was to increase her speed from start to finish. In looking back on her race, Preg said she, "continued passing other runners throughout the race." Preg clearly took advantage of the participant-packed racing field and fed off of that energy.
Freshman Leslie Stewart came in 223rd place with a time of 23:06. In 240th place was senior Brooke Hoppmeyer in 23:37 for her first 5K of the cross country season. Hoppmeyer's time was her 5K personal record.
Two freshmen, Kayla Heflin and Annika Stryker made considerable strides in their 5K times. Heflin placed 254th and Stryker came in 262nd place. Both runners were able to break the 25-minute mark for their races. Heflin raced the 5K in 24:06, while Stryker raced a 24:26 for the race.
The women's team was able to make improvements and significant personal records. Coach Paul Deaton stated that, "the team took advantage of an optimal racing day in prime conditions and did everything they could in their races to prepare for the remainder of the season."
The next competition for the team is on Oct. 29 at Georgia Highlands College against their former rival, Shorter University.