Women’s cross country sets for Les Duke


Paulina Campbell ’16 and Alshoa Southern ’17 led the Pioneers in last weekend’s Central College Invitational. Photo by Aaron Juarez.

The women’s cross country team finished in fifth place among nine contestants at its first meet at the Central College Invitational on Thursday, Sept. 4, an impressive feat for a group that has begun its team practice only two weeks ago.

Head coach Evelyn Freeman confessed that in last week’s meet, winning was not the team’s priority.

“We had two goals for [the] race at Central,” Freeman said. “[The runners] were running first two miles with our running groups and run at the threshold pace. So we wanted to just feel out the race and be in control.”

The threshold pace refers to running at a speed that is in between jogging and sprinting.

Paulina Campbell ’16 and Alshoa Southern ’17 led the Pioneers in last weekend’s Central College Invitational. Photo by Aaron Juarez.
Paulina Campbell ’16 and Alshoa Southern ’17 led the Pioneers in last weekend’s Central College Invitational. Photo by Aaron Juarez.

Nele Löecher ’17 agreed that the team had a good strategy and helped the Pioneers keep pace with their runs.

“The first race of a season is always exciting and it is tempting to go out too fast and then burn out in the end,” she wrote in an email to The S&B. “So, we ran the first two miles as a workout at a moderate pace with our running groups and started racing at the two-mile mark.”

The team is very satisfied with the result.

“We were really successful at meeting our goals,” Freeman said. “I was really pleased and everybody, when they were done, felt really good about their run.”

Alosha Southern ’17 led Grinnell last weekend in the six-kilometer run by finishing 19th in the 135-runner meet. Paulina Campbell ’16 and Diana Seer ’15 followed suit.

While the invitational mainly served to expose the team to a competitive race, the meet also provided a good setting to test where the team stood.

“We have quite a few first-time runners including myself, so it was important for us to experience the race atmosphere for the first time at the Central Meet,” Löecher wrote. “For the whole team, it was good to gauge where we are at so that we can go into Les Duke with realistic self-perception and increased control.”

The Invitational also provided some preparation for tomorrow’s Les Duke Invitational, one of the most prominent meets in the season.

“It’s our only home meet of the season and it’s just so nice to feel the support of not only teammates but the school and the community,” Southern said.

Competing at home can be a double-edged sword, however. While there is tremendous support from friends and the community, the team may feel compelled to perform better. Although Seer admitted that Les Duke is an important invitational, the team sees it as a preparation for the Midwest Conference (MWC). The Pioneers once again clinched the MWC title last year, raising their total Conference titles to seven in the last 10 years.

“Everybody is willing to work very hard,” Southern said. “We have a very strong team this year and it’s exciting to think about the possibilities.”

The expectation, while heavy, serves as an excitement and not a burden.“We always try to balance serious, competitive attitude[s] and have fun,” Seer said.

“Running is an individual sport, but we also emphasize a happy, supportive and inclusive team atmosphere, up-keeping each runner’s morale,” Löecher added.

In fact, being a part of the community is one of the chief reasons that stimulates Southern to run.

“I love running with other women on the team,” she said. “They are such an inspirational group of people.”

The Les Duke will be held at Oakland Acres. Shuttles will be available from in front of the Natatorium starting at 8 a.m. and will be available every 30 minutes. When the race is over, the shuttle will transport the students back to the College.