On a chilly Saturday morning last weekend, three Polar Bears earned their bid to Nationals at the New England DIII Cross Country Championships. Caroline Shipley ’20 finished the women’s 6K in seventh place with a time of 21:38.5, with Delaney Bullock ’22 close behind her in 13th. Luca Ostertag-Hill ’20 ran in right under the wire to qualify for nationals and completed the men’s 8K in 26th place with a time of 25:35.7.
For the second year in a row, Bowdoin held a home track advantage entering the New England Championships, but early winter weather posed a serious problem for runners.
The day before I had been doing a light workout on the course and it was not runnable at all,” said Ostertag-Hill. “I remember [thinking] this is going to be the worst race ever. It was super, super soft so you couldn’t push off the ground and also extremely slippery.”
But another cold snap early the next morning provided the Polar Bears with better conditions. The ground froze solid, allowing runners to push off more powerfully with each stride as long as they avoided icy corners.
It was imperative that all runners followed their strategy perfectly throughout the race to finish in the top. Shipley and Bullock worked together, running in a pack for three miles before splitting off. The pack prevented Shipley from sprinting off too early in the race while Bullock used her partner to not fall behind.
“The whole strategy is to pass and not get passed,” said Shipley. “I knew who to run behind, so I got up behind them and let them break the wind and lead the way. Then knowing when to break ahead from one group into the next and when to surge is the strategy.”
Luckily, the Polar Bears will be running with familiar faces and frequent rivals when they travel to Lexington, KY, for the NCAA national championship. Several NESCAC teams, such as Williams and Bates, will join them in the Bluegrass State.
In preparation for Nationals, the runners are tapering their workouts and calling alumni who have raced in a NCAA DIII Championship for advice. Julia O’Rourke ’19 had some words of wisdom for Ostertag-Hill. His time was one of the last to qualify for the championship.
“The hard part is both [O’Rourke] and I got in at the tail end of the cut-off so it’s hard to say I want to have this high goal [in the race] because everyone else in the field is going to be a great runner as well,” said Ostertag-Hill. “[But O’Rourke] said you have to keep your head in it and treat it like you deserve to be there, and shooting for a high goal is key to the race.”