2011 Women's Cross Country Championship Review
With a large group of newcomers to the Penn State Altoona women’s cross country squad going into the 2011 season, it was up to the entire team to come together to ensure that they continued the tradition of determination and achievement through in the program’s tenth season. By working hard through the early phases of the year and continually improving, this edition of the women’s team accomplished their goal, placing third in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.
In the season’s final stretch, the team raced in four meets in a row, including three that were championships. In that four-week period, the Lady Lions achieved individual season best finishes 70% of the time.
First up in this final phase of the season was the Cross Country Only Championships hosted by Hobart and Williams Colleges in Geneva, New York. This was the squad’s first trip to the CCOC meet, where all of the participating colleges have cross country teams, but not track and field teams. Coach Heidi Manfred knew that it was going to be a challenging but important competition.
"When we raced at the CCOC meet, we were missing four of our top women due to illness," she explained. "But we were focusing on racing D’Youville College, who we knew would be a close rival for us at the AMCC meet two weeks later."
On the flat but windy course, the Lady Lions raced hard and were rewarded for their efforts. All seven women who ran achieved a season best 5K time.
"And though the team did finish behind rival D’Youville," Manfred says, "it was valuable to race them head-to-head and get a good look at our competition, knowing that we were not running our full team."
Two weeks later, after a 6K race at Hood College, Penn State Altoona headed to Buffalo, New York for the AMCC Championship. Again, the focus would be on finishing ahead of the D’Youville women in a race for third place in the conference, behind Penn State Behrend and Franciscan University of Steubenville. The rain-soaked course offered a six kilometer track of mud, but the team was prepared after previewing the course the day before. They competed well, gaining an early position ahead of D’Youville in the team scoring and holding it for a 12-point advantage at the finish line. For the eighth time in ten years, the Lady Lions finished in the top three in the ten team AMCC conference race. Freshman Missy Scandrol and sophomore Kristen Cummings earned All-Conference honors for their performances, as they joined many of their teammates in running near-best performances on a very difficult course.
The following week, the harrier women wrapped up their season in Williamstown, Massachusetts at the Eastern College Athletic Conference Championships. With their focus on running individually smart races over team placing, the top-seven squad finished the season with every woman but one running a 6K personal best in their final race of the season. Kristen Cummings led the team with a 158th place finish in 27:44.
With the 2011 running season complete, the coaches and team are already looking forward to next fall. Manfred believes that the squad’s returners next year will build off of their accomplishments from this season.
"This is a young team as we often have, but a year from now, we will be building the team around a core group of women who are excited to work hard and enjoy the fruits of their
labors," Manfred said. "This team of women was special because they improved in every meet from the start of September to the end of the season in November. A year from now, I’m excited to see what they can do."
TAGS: women's cross country