BY KATHLEEN STUBBS
The Franciscan women’s and men’s cross country teams placed first and second respectively at the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Cross Country Meet at Franciscan University Saturday.
Head Coach Dan Kuebler said that men did well and improved significantly since their meet on the course during Franciscan’s invitational meet in September, as well as in comparison to conference championships last year.
“It’s amazing that they ran so well,” said Kuebler. “… this course is a tough course. Some of them ran a minute – minute and a half faster than they did last time. They ran probably as best as they could.”
Franciscan men’s top four runners made the all-conference team and finished within 1 minute of each other. Senior Patrick Flanagan finished the men’s 8K with a time of 27:38, followed by junior John Redmond and freshmen Tim Jackson and Graham Martin.
The men’s team beat Penn State- Altoona in order to finish second, after finishing third place last year.
Franciscan’s top six women finished within one minute of each other.
Kuebler, regarding the women’s team, said, “And that’s what made it a team race today. The other teams that were competing today just didn’t have the depth of teamwork that we had.”
Franciscan women’s No. 1 runner, senior Leah Kaisler, agreed that pack running and team unity were important in the success of the women’s team.
Kaisler said she was used to being within the pack of Franciscan’s No. 5 through No. 8 runners, but the consistency of the runners behind her, even when she moved to No. 1 on the team, earned the other four places for the team, resulting in Franciscan receiving first place as a team.
Kaisler said, “It wasn’t because I was the top runner on the team (today), it’s the other girls behind me that made the difference.”
Kate Porter, Allison Huelseman, Colene Smith and Elise Zajicek, all seniors, finished 11th, 12th, 13th and 15th, respectively.
Kaisler said the tight pack of the other leading Lady Barons was crucial to getting first place.
“And that’s what makes the difference on the team, that’s why we won,” Kaisler said. “It’s because they stayed ahead of, you know, those runners on the other teams. That’s what made us win conference championships.”
In the women’s race, a 6K, Kaisler finished ninth overall and finished first of the Lady Barons.
Kaisler said that the 2014 AMCC championship meet was her all-time best race. She was surprised by how much she improved from her previous personal record at Oberlin in 2013, a notably flat course.
“My mindset for this race was so different compared from going into (other) races,” Kaisler said. “The last two (races), not only was I sick but I was really not motivated and I didn’t really care, which I’m not proud of.”
Kaisler said a few team bonding activities leading up to conference championships boosted her motivation. In particular, Kaisler said a team Mass, presided by the cross country team chaplain, the Rev. Gregory Plow, as well as a pep talk given by Plow to the women’s team Saturday morning, helped her perform her best in the meet.
Kaisler said having the men’s cross country team as well as parents, friends and coaches cheering her and other Lady Barons on made a significant difference in which place she finished. The encouragement gave her a little “push” to run past runners on other teams.