By Trevor Wenners
Athletic Communications Assistant
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – It is that time of year.
That is correct. It is time for the best runners across the NESCAC to square off against each other in the 2017 NESCAC Conference Championships.
The Wesleyan University women's cross country team, which has compiled a pair of first-place finishes this fall, is ready to hit the 6-kilometer course at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine, on Saturday at 1 p.m.
"We compete very infrequently in comparison to many other sports, so every race carries a lot of weight and importance," sophomore Rosie Skovron said. "The NESCAC meet is particularly special because it is one of the few times we get to see how we measure up compared to the rest of the conference. The NESCAC cross country teams are some of the best in the nation for Division III, so the competition is intimidating but exciting."
The Cardinals expected competitors include seniors Morgan Findley and Sylwia Lipior, juniors Rhoen Fiutak, Carina Flaherty and Julia Mitchell, sophomores Sara Pinsonault and Skovron, and freshmen Lizzie Edwards, Becky Lopez-Anido and Emma Trapani.
The Cardinals placed seventh overall at the 2016 NESCAC Championships, highlighted by a 28th overall finish by Mitchell. Wesleyan is looking to continue climbing the ladder in the ultra-competitive conference.
"For the NESCAC Championship this weekend, our team hopes to place in the top half of the conference," Skovron said. "If the team runs to its full potential on Saturday, we should be able to place in the top-five or six."
Wesleyan caught fire out of the gates this fall, grabbing first-place recognition and eight of the top-nine slots on the individual side at the Wesleyan Invitational on Sept. 15. Mitchell earned individual-champion honors with a time of 18:59 on the 3-mile course, and Lopez-Anido was the runner up with a time of 19:01.
The Cardinals' act traveled to Bethlehem, Pa., as the squad fought its way to a first-place finish out of 32 teams during the Women's White event at the Paul Short Run on Sept. 29. Lopez-Anido was the first Cardinal to cross the finish line, earning fifth-place acknowledgement out of 271 runners. Mitchell was not far behind, finishing seventh overall and Pinsonault was the 14th-place performer.
Wesleyan's top-end talent has been on display this fall, but just like every other sport, depth and multiple contributors is a defining characteristic of a complete team.
Pinsonault has finished in the top-15 overall during all three meets this season, and Fiutak was the team's fourth-place finisher at the Wesleyan Invitational and Paul Short Run. Skovron has been a focal point of the team's efforts, grabbing sixth-place accolades at the Wesleyan Invitational and 23rd-place honors at the Paul Short Run.
Trapani (18th overall) and Findley (20th) were Wesleyan's fourth- and fifth-place finishers, respectively, at the Little Three Championship on Oct. 14.
Lipior and Flaherty compiled times of 20:37 and 21:22 on the 3-mile course at the Wesleyan Invitational, while Edwards made her debut at the Paul Short Run, finishing with a time of 23:45.
"Our team is probably one of the smallest on campus with only 11 girls," Skovron said. "However, each of my teammates possess an immense amount of talent and dedication. Our incoming freshman class is incredibly strong, and are already having a huge impact on our team both in scoring and in our community. We graduated five seniors last year, which left a significant gap, but it has been filled by newcomers and returners. I like to think that our team is tiny but mighty."
Going into a high-end meet like the NESCAC Championshisp has the potential to be intimidating, which makes pre-event routines vital.
"Staying calm before a meet like this is pretty difficult," Skovron said. "I think all runners have different methods for coping with race-day nerves. Sticking to a routine of sleeping, eating and warming-up helps me stay focused and somewhat relaxed. I also like to remind myself and my teammates that we have put in the work and training to be prepared for the race, so we do not have anything to fear when we step on the start line."