By: Alice Coughlin
The Berry College women's cross country team toed the starting line of their home course for one last time in the 2011 season. Three full teams and a total of 31 participants competed on the Viking's 6K course for the Viking Open. The Lady Vikings raced to a first place finish with 27 points. The alumni team, "Berry FANS" placed second with 39 points and Gadsden State Community College came in third place with 67 points. Other participants not competing with full teams included competitors from Shorter University and the College of Coastal Georgia.
The Viking Open is a Berry College cross country event born out of necessity. It is a racing opportunity for the Vikings and other similar schools seeking a competitive atmosphere late in the cross country season. Although the meet may have the fewest competitors of all the races hosted by Berry College, it has developed as an event where personal records are earned and breakthroughs are witnessed. The Lady Vikings raced up to the expectations of the Viking Open with the women's team earning a total of six personal records out of the 14 women who competed.
Senior Jenn Cook dominated the Berry College course for the last time of her collegiate running career. Cook raced to second place in 22:49. Cook came in just 27 seconds behind Jill Horst, a Rome runner who recently qualified for the Olympic Trials marathon. Cook set a competitive tone for the team by establishing a blazing fast pace in the blazing heat of the day.
Without a doubt, the most impressive performance of the day came from senior Captain Sara Walcott. Walcott came in third place for the race in 22:51, taking nearly 30 seconds off of her previous personal record. Walcott has become a leader of the women's squad by the example of her commitment to running and by the example of the healthy progression in her racing speed. Walcott is the quintessence of the dedicated student-athlete. Walcott has impacted the team not only in the improvement of her running times, but as a source of direction and focus for a team that seeks continuous improvement and achievement.
In fifth place for the race was junior Lauren Nation. Nation ran a personal record of 25:22 for the 6K course. Throughout this season, Nation has established herself as a consistent and dependable racer for the Lady Vikings. Nation demonstrated her ability to commit and improve regardless of the racing environment or competition.
Next for the team was freshman Courtney Barker in 8th place in a time of 26:43. Barker earned a personal record by 37 seconds. Barker's performance represents her constant improvements in racing and the benefits attained from collegiate training. Sophomore Charlotte Collins came in 9th place for the race. Collins earned a time of 26:57, just breaking the 27-minute mark.
Senior Lauren Hicks raced for her last time on a cross country course which has been home to her for the past four years. Hicks earned a personal record with a time of 27:16 in 10th place. Sophomore Allison Preg was the women's squad seventh runner in the race. Preg placed 11th within the race in a time of 27:21. Preg's race represents her return to strong and wholesome racing.
Sophomore Katy Jordan came in 16th place for the race in a personal record of 27:59. Jordan's consistent race allowed her to break the 28-minute mark for her first time. Followed by Jordan was freshman Leslie Stewart in 17th place and a time of 28:27.
Freshman Nicole Fredette came in 18th place with a time of 29:03. Through the season Fredette proved that she is a mature runner through her approach to training and in her dedication to injury recovery. Senior Brooke Hoppmeyer ran her last cross country race in 29:14, earning a 6K personal record in 19th place. Two more personal records were earned by freshmen Kayla Heflin and Annika Stryker. Heflin came in 23rd place in 29:50. Stryker raced to 27th place in a time of 30:38.
Honorary Berry College alumni included Courtney Cooper, Jacque Smith and Ashlea Hutchins. Cooper came in 4th place in 23:15, Smith ran to 22nd place in 29:37 and Hutchins earned 24th place in a time of 29:54.
The Viking Open marks the last time that the Lady Vikings will race as an entire team for the season. However, a few select harriers will partake in the elite racing environment of USATF Cross Country Club Nationals in Seattle, Wa. on Dec. 10.