Women’s cross-country team off to a running start

Here's a look at the team's first four meets of the season

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Women’s cross-country team off to a running start

Sara Stephenson, '22. Photo courtesy of Washington and Lee University Athletics

Sara Stephenson, '22. Photo courtesy of Washington and Lee University Athletics

Sara Stephenson, '22. Photo courtesy of Washington and Lee University Athletics

Sara Stephenson, '22. Photo courtesy of Washington and Lee University Athletics

Sydney Lee

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Washington and Lee women’s cross-country team, ranked 29th, is off to a great start this season, running well both individually and collectively in their first four meets.

“The season has been great so far,” said runner Sara Stephenson, ’22. “We’re off to a strong start and we have a really deep team because everyone contributes.”

The team ran its full lineup of 22 teammates for the first time at its fourth meet of the season on Friday, September 20 at the Main Line Invitational in Pennsylvania. The Generals’ Division III team beat Division I teams like UPenn, finishing second behind Villanova.

Sara “Steve” Stephenson, ’22, led the team with a time of 18:00.60. Stephenson finished in tenth place out of 88 runners as the meet’s top Division III. Last week, she received the ODAC Women’s Runner of the Week honor for her impressive performance.

The next four runners to finish after Stephenson were Generals trailing just seconds behind. Katie Harris, ’21, trailed close behind Stephenson with a time of 18:16.59, earning her 15th place in the competitive field. Harris was the fourth Division III runner to cross the line.

“Friday’s performance was exciting for a number of reasons,” Harris said. “Our performances from top to bottom were extremely solid. A lot of runners exceeded their predicted times, and our tight 1-5 spread was only 18 seconds. It was a really good day for the group.”

Next came Carolyn Todd, ’23, finishing 16th place with a time of 18:17.58. Avery Schiffman, ’22, followed her, finishing 18th place with a time 18:17.83. Parker Hawk, ’23, rounded out the top five for the Generals by completing the course in 18:18.60 for a 19th place finish.

On September 14, the team placed first out of 19 teams at the ODAC preview race, ahead of Lynchburg and Southern Virginia. Stephenson placed fifth on the 6K course, with Parker Hawk, ’23, right behind her in sixth place. And at the Bridgewater Challenge on Aug. 30, the team placed second out of nine teams, even without the team’s top nine varsity runners.

Several of the runners attributed their performance to the close-knit team.

“The dynamic of the team is always very high-energy and supportive,” Stephenson said. “Everyone is either cheering on the sidelines if they’re not racing or pushing as much as they can to run their best and help the rest of the team.”

Todd is only a few weeks into her first season at Washington and Lee, but she said she’s felt included on the team since day one.

“All the girls are so welcoming,” she said. “It instantly felt like I’d known them forever.”

The Generals will compete next on Friday, October 11 at the Royals Cross Country Challenge, hosted by Queens University in Charlotte, N.C.

“We hope to continue to get better, stay healthy, win ODACs and have as good a showing as we can at Regionals,” Stephenson said. “We have never qualified for Nationals as a team and really, really would like to.”

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