Column: Women’s cross country’s run of dominance far from over

Expect anything different?

In what’s become a yearly ritual around the late-October/early-November time of the year, the Waynesburg University women’s cross country team won the Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship, edging out a scrappy Geneva squad by four points.

Although the 2019 PAC Championships just ended, and the cross country season is still going on for several Yellow Jacket runners. I’m going to have a little fun and look into the future. 

For Waynesburg, the future looks good. Like, insanely good. The Jackets have won four straight PAC championships, and there’s no reason to think that the turn of the decade will bring this run of dominance to a halt.

Aubrey Wingeart

Let’s start with the obvious. Wingeart is, pound-for-pound, the best athlete at Waynesburg University right now, and the only person that has a legitimate argument is baseball pitcher Mason Miller. If the team is a band, Wingeart is the lead singer.

She’s placed first in all six of Waynesburg’s races this season and stole the show this past weekend, winning the individual PAC championship by 14 seconds. 

If her health doesn’t betray her, Wingeart will be a national qualifier by the time she graduates, and her head coach, Chris Hardie, indicated Saturday that she could qualify as soon as this year depending on how things go at the Mideast Regionals Nov. 16. 

The program has been blessed with fantastic individual performances over the past decade from the likes of  Julie Gerber, Katie and Emily Latimer and Angie Marchetti just to name a few.

With her athletic career not even at its halfway point, Wingeart is already a star and by the time she graduates, her star might shine the brightest of them all. 

The rest of the band

A cross country team cannot win a championship on the back of one person. That’s not how this sport works. That’s not how any of this works. Wingeart had the most impressive individual performance, but she was far from alone in turning heads Saturday. 

At the PAC Championships, all of Waynesburg’s top seven placed in the top 20 overall, with six coming in the top 15. Even more impressive is the fact that all seven are coming back next season, and featuring representatives from the freshman, sophomore and junior class. 

From the junior class, Nicole Shelton earned first-team All-PAC honors, finishing in sixth, and classmate Becca Volz made the second team, placing ninth. Additionally, junior Gianna Pugliano made the honorable mention team with a 17th place finish.

For the underclassmen, sophomore Gloria Reed joined Wingeart on the first team All-PAC squad placing in seventh, and Monica Kolenick was one second away from making second-team all-conference, but settled for an honorable mention spot, finishing in 15th. 

Waynesburg rookies were a little quieter, but Madelyn Verhoff earned second-team honors with a 13th place finish.

While Waynesburg is losing the leadership of this year’s senior class, it has all of its top scorers coming back next year. That’s bad news for everybody else in the PAC. 

Chirs Hardie

As much as anything else, Waynesburg’s consistency is a result of head man Chris Hardie’s recruiting. His ability to bring talent in and assistant coach Michelle Cross’ training strategy led to Waynesburg becoming the force that it is. As long as Hardie can recruit, and he and the rest of the coaching staff continue to develop the runners, there’s no telling when this train will stop moving. 

Waynesburg isn’t a lock to win the PAC again next year. Geneva has plenty of talent coming back, including sophomore Elly McGillivray, who was the best runner in the PAC not named Aubrey Wingeart.

The Golden Tornados fought hard, but Waynesburg proved Saturday that it’s still at the top of the mountain, and with all of its key performers coming back, the odds are good that the Jackets are staying there. 

Four years ago, the Yellow Jackets were the bridesmaids of the PAC. Now, they are the brides, and it might be a while until another program gets to wear white on championship Saturday.