Senior Trio Poised to Repeat as Conference Champions

As College seniors Shannon Wargo, Oona Jung-Beeman, and Marija Crook each accepted their “Most Outstanding First-Year” award at the end-of-the-season cross country banquet three years ago, Associate Head Cross Country Coach Izzy Alexander told the entire team that together, the trio made up the perfect runner. Wargo started each race strong, Jung-Beeman performed her best in the middle of a race, and Crook always finished with incredible endurance.

“If you put those three things together, that’s how every runner wants to race,” Wargo said.

After three years and nine seasons of cross country, indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field, the trio has collectively received over 12 all-North Coast Athletic Conference honors, made three trips to nationals, and helped their team win one cross country conference championship and six track and field conference championships.

Wargo, Jung-Beeman, and Crook are poised to have their best season individually and collectively this fall after training over the summer together in Boston. Wargo volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House at Boston Harbor and networked with Oberlin alumni in the area; Jung-Beeman completed a teaching fellowship at one of Roxbury Prep’s three middle schools; and Crook interned at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. When they weren’t working, they talked about their goals for the season and ran all over Boston together.

“There was more motivation to actually get out of the house and do it, even if we weren’t feeling like it,” Wargo said. “Summer training became more of a fun, scheduled event in my day instead of something that I had to do. I told myself, ‘I get to go hang out with my friends for 45 minutes.’”

Wargo, Jung-Beeman, and Crook have been in the same workout group all four years of their collegiate running careers. Every season, Director of Track and Field and Cross Country Ray Appenheimer and Alexander split the team up into several practice groups based on each athlete’s past performances and how they do throughout preseason camp. The fastest group — which Wargo, Jung-Beeman, and Crook are a part of — also includes College senior Rachel Urso and College junior Corrie Purcell.

While no longer having three-time national qualifier Linnea Halsten, OC ’19, on the roster certainly hurts, this year’s squad continues to prioritize teamwork and carry forth the spirit of communication and unity cultivated by last year’s team.

“We have an easy time communicating with each other,” Wargo said. “If one of us isn’t feeling good one day or is feeling really good one day, we’re all comfortable with speaking up and saying, ‘We’re going too fast,’ or ‘Let’s pick this up.’”

Although the cross country program has always been viewed by other student-athletes as one of the closest teams on campus, Wargo and Jung-Beeman insist that their team chemistry this year is better than ever.

“Our team has always been really close and always made it a point to enjoy the things that we’re doing, but this team feels less cliquey and more focused on the present this year than in other seasons,” Jung-Beeman added.

The trio admitted that they didn’t have as much confidence as they would have liked during their first two years, but losing the conference title by a slim margin those two years motivated them to win it as juniors, and now, as seniors, they know they’re fully capable of winning the conference title a second time.

“The three of us have definitely talked very specifically about being a confident team on the starting line, because it’s something we’ve dealt with in past years,” Crook said. “I don’t feel a huge amount of pressure because I have so much confidence in the rest of the upperclassmen in the creation of a positive team environment that leads to all the other successful things.”

Jung-Beeman struggled to list her personal goals for the fall, noting that her goals have always revolved around the team.

“I want to be enough of a leader where I can bring the rest of the pack with me,” she said. “I’m not trying to leave people in the dust. Our team isn’t competitive in that kind of way.”

Jung-Beeman was named the NCAC Athlete of the Week on Monday after winning Oberlin’s season-opening race at the Wooster Invitational last Friday with a 4K time of 14:45.8. She was the only runner to average a sub-six-minute mile, 5:55.7.

Wargo qualified for nationals in outdoor track and field three years ago for the mile. Since then, she has had surgery to remove a dangerously large cyst, battled a knee injury, and worked to overcome the doubts in her head that came with that kind of adversity. However, Wargo is anything but discouraged, and said she trained hard this summer to be in the best shape she has ever been in at the start of a cross country season.

“A lot happened my sophomore year, and coming out of it my junior year was still a bit of a struggle,” she said. “I’ve been trying to figure out who I am as a runner, and what’s going to make me happy as I walk across the stage at commencement in May is if I can look back and say that I figured it out. I’m mad it hasn’t happened yet, but it will.”

However, Wargo echoed Jung-Beeman’s team-oriented sentiment.

“It’s going to be fun, because it’s not just me go ing after [these goals],” she said. “It’s me with two people I have been friends with for more than three years now, as well as so many other of my close friends.”

The team will compete at the Calvin Knight Invite in Grand Rapids, MI, tomorrow at 10 a.m. They’ll have a weekend off before driving down to Cedarville for the All-Ohio Championship on Sept. 28.