Cross Country Jumps to Top-20 Rank
Rejoining the ranks of the top Division III teams in the nation, the women’s cross country team earned the No. 20 spot in the most recent United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Coaches’ poll. The Yeowomen jumped 15 spots in the rankings since last season, largely due to impressive performances in their first three meets — including a third-place finish in the Yellowjacket Invitational and a dominant first-place finish at the Bison Invite.
The Yeowomen were joined by men’s cross country when they headed east to compete in the Yellowjacket Invitational in Rochester, NY, on Sept. 17. The women recorded a third-place finish in the 6k while the men came in 10th in the 8k.
“We learned what we need to build on while still putting on a strong performance,” junior Owen Mittenthal said. “We tested ourselves against some strong teams.”
Senior captain EJ Douglass’ top-10 finish in the 8k earned him North Coast Athletic Conference Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Week accolades. His 26:08 finish secured second place.
In the 6k, sophomore Linnea Halsten worked for a 15th-place finish at 22:41 against 351 competitors. First-years Shannon Wargo and Oona Jung-Beeman logged top-20 finishes as well.
The previous weekend, in stifling heat, the cross country teams captured first and second places in the 6k and 8k races, respectively, at the Bison Invitational at Bethany College in Bethany, WV Sept. 10. Oberlin beat out runners from 14 other teams, including several Division II squads, to earn the top spot on the women’s side and a second-place finish for the men.
Head Coach Ray Appenheimer said he took a chance by bringing his teams to the Bison Invite for the first time in his 13-season coaching tenure. Despite encountering unfamiliar competition and a challenging terrain, he said that the risk paid off.
“We chose to go there because it was going to be a challenge … a new course, with new competition,” Appenheimer said. “We make no excuses and we want to use all these conditions that may look to other people as an obstacle to be an opportunity for us to be tougher and better.”
Halsten had a particularly impressive performance, leading the team in the 6k with a time of 23:41 to place second overall. First-years Marija Crook, Jung-Beeman and Wargo completed the race in fourth, fifth, and sixth places in the trio’s 6K debut. Senior captain Emily Curley united the squad early on in the race with her veteran pacing strategy to secure 12th place with a strong kick in the home stretch.
Jung-Beeman said the team’s performance at Bethany showcased its dedication to encouraging each other on the course.
“If you’re feeling really good [during the race], you can always take someone with you if they’re struggling,” said Jung-Beeman.
Appenheimer added that cooperation was a main tenet of the team’s strategy for the meet in Bethany.
“[I] really wanted them to rely on each other in packs,” Appenheimer said. “The level of trust we’ve seen in them with each other has been really great every weekend thus far.”
On the men’s side, Douglass fought for second place in the 8k with a time of 27:31, a mere six seconds behind the first-place finisher. The team’s next three finishers were first-years Duncan Reid, David Brubacher and Taylor William, clearing the finish in 13th, 14th and 17th places overall. Douglass said mental strength propelled the Yeomen to a strong performance.
“The workouts we’ve been doing have been a lot of mental focus and working on how to stay engaged during the race — that’s what paid off,” said Douglass. “I was astounded — a lot of the first-years showed this mental focus and toughness that I typically see from veteran runners.”
Looking forward, both teams will take a week off before running in the All-Ohio Championships in Cedarville, Ohio on Sept. 30.