By Brendon Paucek, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire women's cross country team began what should be a special year with resounding success. The Blugolds won the St. Olaf Invite, placing 1st out of 23 teams, scoring 57 points and narrowly edging out team runner-up Carleton's 68 points.
The women were led by Sam Slattery (So. – Waunakee, WI/Waunakee), who placed 3rd and ran the 6,000m course in 22:23.
Slattery was happy with her race. "I think I moved in the right places at the right times," she said, "and that allowed me to finish the way I wanted to."
In close pursuit were fellow Blugolds Morgan Marek (Jr. Muskego, WI/Muskego), Callie Fischer (Oneida, WI/Ashwaubenon), Annika Lerdall (Fr.), and Joanne Reiners (Jr. – Bristol, WI/Westosha Central) who finished 8th (22:57), 11th (23:12), 17th (23:31), and 18th (23:31), respectively.
The team's victory is a promising indicator of future races and the result of of focused training. "We have been doing well as a team to hold each other accountable for meeting our 'small' team goals," Marek said, "such as making sure we are focusing on correct sprint drill form, taking our time with circuits and strength work, and taking the time to recover properly."
Although the women didn't qualify for the National meet last year, the women entered the season ranked 20th in the preseason poll. However, this weekend's victory and display of depth reflects a much higher ceiling.
"We hope to not only qualify for Nationals this year, but to also try to be in the top four," said Fischer.
To help them achieve this goal, the Blugolds return their top seven runners from last year and added a talented freshmen class. In addition to the top performers at St. Olaf, key returners include Melody Becker (Sr. – Osseo, WI/Homeschooled), Emily Jaeger (Jr. – Fall Creek, WI/Fall Creek), and Karen Gomez-Ruiz (Chatfield, MN/Chatfield).
The Blugolds will take the upcoming week off from competition to train for their annual home meet, the Blugold Invite on September 29.