Women's XC off to nationals
What appeared to be a cross country running race turned into an acrobatic show with head coach Peter Slovenski doing cartwheels down the field. With a third place finish at the New England Division III cross country championships, the Bowdoin Women's Cross Country Team qualified for nationals and watched blisfully as their coach leaped around with joy.
"We were shocked and excited when we heard that we were in third place," said sophomore Katie Landry.
The women, looking for their first bid to nationals since 1996, were up against a competitive field including national qualifiers Middlebury, Williams, and Brandeis. Running in a field of 36 teams and 273 athletes, the women were able to place all seven varsity runners in the top 100 in their second ever six-kilometer race.
"Everyone put everything they had on the course on Saturday. No one held back and that is the reason we were able to finish where we did. We thought we could do it, but having actually accomplished the task has been incredible," said senior captain Bre McKenna.
Race day was filled with many surprises as women came into the start of the race. Snow from the night before softened the terrain, complicating the race as runners fell right at the start.
At the sound of the gun both Libby Barney '03 and Kate Cary '06 found themselves on the ground. But despite falling Barney ran first for the team, placing twenty-first, while Cary placed ninety-seventh overall in her first appearance at the New England Championships.
The mud and snow did not stop the rest of the team from having outstanding races either. Unlike the women from other teams, junior Kala Hardacker believed the snow helped to set apart the Bowdoin team. "I think the snow and surface was to our advantage because we have been training in all types of weather and terrain," said Hardacker.
Though Barney and Cary both fell and ran superbly, the real hero of the day had to be number-five runner Mary Beth Sexton '05. Sexton's forty-seventh place finish in the race was the determining factor that qualified the Polar Bears for nationals.
Slovenski said of Sexton's race, "After the race the Wesleyan coach asked me what kind of a race our fifth runner had. I told him she had an excellent race, and he knew we finished ahead of their team. So much of the team score comes down to the speed of the fifth runner and we had a great fifth runner in Mary Beth Sexton."
Heading into nationals, the team consisting of seniors Libby Barney and Bre McKenna, junior Kala Hardacker, sophomores Ellen Beth, Katie Landry, and Mary Beth Sexton, and first-year Kate Cary is ranked twelfth in the national poll.
Both the men's and women's cross-country teams will head to St. Olaf's in Minnesota this weekend to race, marking the first time since 1995 that both teams have attended nationals.