by Connor Soudani
Bush Pasture Park served as the location for yet another cross country race this season with the NCAA DIII West Regional Meet on Saturday.
As both the men’s and women’s cross country teams prepared to return to competition after their strong performances at the conference meet, many factors for both teams would come into play.
For the women, they would be without one of their captains, senior Christina Williams, and would have to contend with the injuries of junior captain Amanda Blankenship, who was limited in practice leading up to the regional meet. The women were ranked 32nd nationally going into the meet and third in the region with NWC foe Willamette ranked first in the region and California powerhouse Claremont Mudd Scripps ranked second.
On the men’s side, the team would be looking to continue what was the pinnacle of their season thus far at the conference meet. With a ranking of sixth in the region coming in, the men had their sights set on UPS and Whitman as they tried to improve on their finish at conference against those teams.
The men performed well through the first few miles with junior Chris MacMurray and senior Taylor Steele taking the early team leads and then shifting to Steele and junior Colton Berry for the remainder of the race. MacMurray would finish third for the team with a 27:11.3 on the 8K course. Steele and Berry would both take home all-region honors with Steele’s 26:15.4 finish in 20th and Berry’s 26:33.4 time for 34th.
Senior Trent Dudley, who finished in 27:15.8 and fourth for the team, is concluding his cross country career where it all began.
“I’ve been doing cross country since 4th grade. I just realize that I started cross country at Bush Park and I actually ended cross country at Bush Park so it’s just really weird,” Dudley said. “I threw up training in that park and had all my conference meets there and then this race. I guess it’s just right that I ended my season there and my career.”
The women were boxed out of front pack right from the start; they were forced to let other teams take the lead into the first hill. Junior Kellyn Roiko held the lead for Whitworth runners with junior Amanda Blankenship eventually passing her up.
As the race came down to the final stretch, Blankenship was hitting her stride while Roiko was fighting to remain competitive. In the end, the women would get four athletes on the all-region team with Blankenship finishing 21st with a time of 23:06.2 and Roiko finishing 28th in 23:15.2. Sophomore Kristen Schoenike and junior Jessica Arnzen would fall in at 31st and 32nd, respectively.
“The women just fell down and still had a good race,” Head Coach Toby Schwarz said. “Kristen had a race like she’s always had. Amanda didn’t get out fast enough. Kellyn was sick. Katie [McKay] had the best race of her life. Thais [Pedro Trujillo] ran well. Bailey ran well considering she was sick. The women ran well; they just had unfortunate circumstances for some of them.”
The good overall team performance would prove to not be enough for a second-place finish as the CMS women unloaded on the field for 54 points to the Pirates’ 147. Willamette would finish first with 31 points.
“CMS was really good. They’ve been a top 15 national team for the last couple of years and they just hadn’t been running that way this year,” Schwarz said. “I think Willamette could potentially win or be a top five team and I think CMS will be somewhere between fifth and 10th at nationals.”
The Pirate women fell just short of their nationals goal.
Afterwards, Roiko leaned on the shoulder of her teammate sophomore Kendall Chin and got hit by the emotions of the day.
“I was pretty upset because I had my goal for the race to be in top 10 and I know that I could have been up there but I just didn’t have a very good race,” Roiko said. “Getting third again is really tough and I was just upset over my performance and just felt kind of bad about that.”
With all the races at Bush Park behind them and both teams now done for the season, athletes and coaches prepare for indoor and outdoor track to begin in January.