By Trevor Wenners
Athletic Communications Assistant
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – College athletes typically see a big increase in their production level during sophomore year.
Sara Pinsonault of the Wesleyan University women's cross country team is no exception. The sophomore runner has been a focal point in the Cardinals' lineup, finishing in the team's top-three during all four events this fall.
|Sara Pinsonault has placed in the top-15 overall three times this fall for Wesleyan.|
She also turned some heads by finishing 38th overall at the 2017 NESCAC Championship on Oct. 28, as she was the second Cardinal to cross the finish line. The Sparta, N.J. native climbed 24 slots in the conference rankings from her rookie performance, with Wesleyan taking home seventh-place recognition.
Pinsonault's strong contributions have coincided with the overall team's success. She finished fourth overall at the Wesleyan Invitational on Sept. 15, as the squad defeated Post in Middletown, Conn. Two weeks later, the Cardinals claimed first-place honors out of 32 teams during the Women's White event at the Paul Short Run, while Pinsonault earned a 14th-place finish out of 271 competitors.
Now, Wesleyan has turned its attention to the NCAA Regional Championship on Saturday in Gorham, Maine. The unit finished 10th overall at the meet last season, and this year's lineup will include senior Morgan Findley, juniors Rhoen Fiutak and Julia Mitchell, sophomores Rosie Skovron and Pinsonault, and rookies Becky Lopez-Anido and Emma Trapani.
Pinsonault took some time out of her schedule to speak about the regional event, while also touching on her personal improvements and hobbies.
Q: Could you talk about the atmosphere at the NCAA Regional Championship?
A: The NCAA Regional Championship is the same as any other meet, except the stakes are much higher. This is the only meet of the season that determines where we rank out of all the teams in our region and whether our season continues or does not. This is also the largest meet of the season in regards to sheer volume. From last season's regional meet, one of the biggest things I learned was the importance of starting aggressively.
Q: What is the group's mindset going into this weekend?
A: Heading into this weekend, we have made all the right mistakes. At the Little Three Championship, we went out too slow, and at the NESCAC Championship, we went out too fast. With these prior experiences, we should know what a strong and comfortable start feels like. We have to stay close as a pack and move farther to the front of the race to advance in team scoring, and maybe even score an NCAA Championship bid. The bare minimum is that we want to finish higher than we did last year.
Q: What has been your best memory with the cross country program at Wesleyan?
A: My best experiences with cross country have been going to head coach John Crooke's house along the ocean for long runs during preseason. We get there early and run along the water saying our good mornings to joggers and dog walkers, and then we have breakfast at Crooke's house where he makes pancakes and eggs.
Q: When did you start running cross country?
A: When I was 10, my dad spurred the start of my running career by signing me up for the local church-organized, 5-kilometer race, and we ran it together. He was a marathon runner so he was itching for my sisters or me to take up running. I ended up doing pretty well in the race, and after that, he really encouraged me to keep running and to join the middle school, cross country team the next year. My younger sisters both run now so it has become a family affair.
Q: What is the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you during a race?
A: During the winter running season, the track is half as long as a normal 400-meter track, which means that races like the 3,200-meter run are 16 laps indoors compared to eight outdoors. Once at the indoor New Jersey state meet, the official and my dad both miscounted my laps, and I finished a lap early. It was probably my worst high school race, and I still get teased for not being able to count to 16.
Q: If you could design the perfect day, what would it include?
A: My perfect day would start with an early, long run with friends, and then we would all go out for breakfast sandwiches. It would be a crisp, fall morning and all the leaves would be changing colors. Then, we would go apple picking and drive by all the farms near my house on the way, and I would like to spend some time out on the lake. For dinner, we would go to the Chatterbox, a local diner, and then watch a scary movie at the drive-in. Apple crisp would certainly be involved somewhere in that 24 hours.
Q: Could you talk about the impact of the first-year runners this fall?
A: The freshmen have been extremely impactful in helping the team succeed this season. When people have been sick or not feeling so great, the rookies have stepped up. I am so impressed and astounded by the success of our first years.
Q: What do you want to see the program accomplish before you graduate?
A: Next year, I think we can finish in the top half at the NESCAC Championship with the improvement of our current runners and the addition of some rookie talent. Before I graduate, I would like our cross country team to punch a ticket to the national championship. I have a lot of ambitions and goals for the team and myself, and one of my running mantras is that anything is possible.
Q: With only 11 runners on your roster, can you talk about the chemistry that exists among the group?
A: Though our team is the smallest cross country squad in the NESCAC, we are still extremely competitive in both the conference and the region. There is a special feeling in being the underdog, and I know that our squad would like to surprise some teams. Also, the size of the team definitely facilitates close friendships, and the people on the team are people I can always count on and are some of the best friends I have ever had.