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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Women’s XC anticipate Les Duke

The red squirrels are not the only things you can see darting around Grinnell this semester—Grinnell’s Women Cross Country team is also in full swing. The team started off the year with a successful showing at the Central College Dutch Invitational in Pella, Iowa last Saturday and this week have been preparing for the much anticipated Les Duke.

At the first meet the Pioneers finished in first place amongst a group of eight colleges, with 52 points overall. Leading the pack was Hannah Colter ’12, who finished in eighth overall, completing the 5-kilometer race in 20 minutes and 12 seconds. She was followed closely by Leah Russell ’11 (20:14), Margaret Rudy ’14 (20:18) and Sarah Burnell ’14 (20:21).

The team’s focus at the first meet was to run the first mile at threshold pace, and then choose to either pick up their pace or stay consistent.

“The goal was to run a controlled first mile in threshold groups and then they could do whatever they wanted, either maintain or pick it up,” said Coach Evelyn Freeman. “Many of them ran a Kenyan run, in that their pace kept gradually increasing.”

The first meet also saw the top seven runners—two of whom are first-years, Sarah Burnell of Grinnell, Iowa and Margaret Rudy of Colorado Springs, Colorado—finish in a pack, as there were only eighteen seconds separating them.

The Dutch Invitational also presented a tremendous opportunity for those students who had studied abroad to get back to racing, and allowed the first years for whom it was their first college meet to work out their nerves.

“It had been awhile since a lot of the team had run a race with eleven girls who were abroad last semester,” said Coach Freeman. “It was also great to see the first years do so well, as I’m sure they were nervous.”

There are ten first years bringing new blood and talent to the team and making this an even deeper squad than in past years. “After the team won Nationals a few years back, it has been in rebuilding mode,” Russell said . “But this year it looks like we are good enough to believe we are no longer in that mode, but that this can be a really successful year.”

Despite all the enthusiasm, the team will be missing two key graduated runners, Nora Colter and Rachel Whitfield. But the Pioneers are going to be led by five senior captains this season, and Coach Freeman believes that leadership is one thing she never has to worry about with her team.

Now with the infamously vulgar Les Duke posters plastered all around campus, the exciting home weekend for the Women’s Cross Country team is here. The competition will be particularly stiff with strong Division III schools like Carleton and Wartburg, as well as the Division II Truman State,, but the women know what their game plan is and will try to stick to it.

“They don’t have to be concerned about how fast they’re going, it’s about being in control, making it feel good, and staying with their running partners,” said Coach Freeman.

For the race they will also need to work through their nerves, and stay focused on their run. “We need to make sure we don’t go out too hard, we can’t get worked up too much,” Colter said. “We need to keep calm and control our nerves.” The Oakland Acres Course, where Les Duke is held, has been a traditionally fast course with a lot of flat and downhill terrain. With the squad’s knowledge of the course and the advantages that come with being at home, the women will look to build off of last week’s success.

“It will be a much bigger meet, and that includes all the alumni and few Professors who will be running, which will make it even more fun.” Mickie O’Brien ’11 said. “Plus it will just be really good to be on our home turf.” The women will run at 9:45 a.m. on the day of Les Duke with the men following at 10:45 a.m.. For those looking for a free and easy way to get there, buses will leave from 10th Ave right outside of the Bear Center every half hour with the first one leaving at 7:30 a.m.

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