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The Scarlet & Black

Women’s cross country dominates invitational meet

By Jonathan Gomez

Mikayla Fujiwara ‘20 finishes in first place at the Central College Dutch Invitational. Photo contributed by Ted Schultz

This past Friday, September 6th, the Grinnell College Women’s Cross-Country team competed in their very first meet of the season at the Central College Dutch Invitational and took home first place overall. Even more impressive is that seven of the top ten finishers were Grinnell College cross country runners with Mikayla Fujiwara ’20 leading the pack. Fujiwara finished first-place overall, more than 40 seconds faster than the runner-up from Central College. 

According to Evelyn Freeman, the women’s cross country coach, “We haven’t raced a cross country meet since last November so it was like ‘Okay, let’s get the feel of it again.’ It was a very low-key meet. We actually ran it more as a workout rather than a race. Our goal was: for the first two miles, we wanted our runners to stick with their running pack and run it at a threshold pace. So, it was halfway in between an easy tempo pace and race pace. We wanted to maintain control of our pace and not get sucked into running too fast right off the gun because we are still getting a feel for things,” said Coach Freeman.

This method worked out well for the team. “I was very impressed with the results. For the most part, everybody was pretty steady and stayed with their group. At the two-mile mark, they had the freedom to do whatever they wanted whether it was speed up, maintain speed or slow down,” said Coach Freeman. 

Despite cross country meet wins and losses not having any effect on qualifications for the conference meet in early November, Coach Freeman was satisfied with the team’s performance. “I was really surprised that this early in the season our third mile time was as fast as it was. That just tells me that we are starting our season at a good place fitness-wise and we’ll build on that. It was surprising to win the meet even though we weren’t racing the entire race. Races give me information to see how the fitness is going, the race strategies we need to work on, if we have tweak our running groups, if we have to tweak our pace work, et cetera,” said Coach Freeman. 

Looking forward to this upcoming weekend, the Pioneers will be hosting the annual Les Duke Invitational on Saturday, September 14th. Freeman is expecting to follow a similar strategy. “Our first mile, we will be sticking with our running groups and racing it at threshold pace, and once we get to the one mile mark then go see if you can go find your race pace. It takes a while to feel where that is and it changes throughout the season depending on how the progression of fitness goes,” said Coach Freeman.

In addition to this being the only home meet all season, there will be 200 alums visiting for a reunion weekend in which current students will be able to connect with alumni and vice versa. The meet will start at 10 a.m. at the Grinnell College Golf Course.

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