The Albion College women’s cross country team is nearing the end of their competitive season with their regular season having concluded on Oct. 16. They are now training for regionals, and potentially nationals.
The team’s competition season began on Oct. 29, when St. Mary’s College hosted the area’s annual conference meet. While there, Albion’s women’s cross country team took fifth place.
“We placed fifth at the conference meet,” said Marikate Murphy, Albion College’s head cross country coach. “We finished behind three nationally ranked teams and one formerly ranked regional team, so we lost to some pretty good opponents. I thought our women ran really well.”
The women’s cross country team’s performance at this year’s conference meet is an improvement from two years ago, when the women’s team placed seventh in the conference. The women’s cross country team had two runners in the conference. Megan McCulloch, Marysville junior, and Sam Bieth, Marine City junior, completed the race with All-MIAA finishes.
According to assistant coach Annika Manning, the women’s cross country team has great chemistry. She believes this has had a positive impact on the team’s performance this fall.
“I am so proud of how close this year’s team has become,” said Manning. “They are a very young team but practice and race like they have been friends and teammates for years. Our women have been working so hard and it shows in their performance.”
While other sports at Albion were given make-up seasons, this year’s cross country season is the first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had no cross country season last year,” said Murphy. “Luckily, we were able to compete in track, so they did not go a full year without competing, but this is our first season of cross country in two years.”
This makes this fall 2021 season especially notable for the women’s team.
Murphy says she has witnessed improvement in the runners over the span of the past few months. Because of this, she is optimistic about the team’s potential for the coming years.
“We have a lot of good momentum moving forward,” said Murphy. “I think our women’s program has become a lot stronger. Though we are not necessarily seeing the results yet on paper, I think in the coming years we will be placing higher and more competitive.”
McCulloch shares a similar outlook.
“This year our motto was ‘Ground Up,’ said McCulloch, via electronic communication. “We are a young team. Our underclassmen have stepped up and really developed into strong competitive runners. I am proud to toe to the line next to my girls and know for a fact that once the gun goes off, we are out on the course running for each other. This is just the start of a new culture for Albion’s [cross country] women’s team.”
The women’s cross country team is set to run at regionals on Saturday at Franklin College.
“We have regionals this upcoming weekend. It’s time for us to go out there and just do what we do, compete,” said said McCulloch, via electronic communication.
Regionals will aid in determining which teams qualify for nationals, a national meet in which college cross country teams from across the United States compete.
“I’m hoping for a top 15 finish as a team at regionals,” said McCulloch, via electronic communication. “It would be great to be able to send an individual to Nationals.”
Cross Country nationals will be held on Nov. 20 in Louisville, Ky.