Entering this year’s Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championship meet, the women’s cross-country team will look to defend its title for the third straight year. This year, albeit successful, hasn’t been the easiest as far as competition goes. In several meets this year, Waynesburg has not always been the top representative from the PAC. On more than one occasion, the Yellow Jackets have been edged out by the Golden Tornadoes of Geneva.
Despite the challenges, head coach Chris Hardie is confident in his team, still believes his team can bring home the championship.
“It’s going to take an effort,” Hardie said. “Not a superhuman effort but a good effort to pull out another championship.”
For sophomore runner Monica Kolencik, the key for the team’s success is to be consistent and cohesive.
“We are just trying to be consistent and work in groups,” said Kolencik said. “ I think that is going to be important for us to be able to keep with our packs and finish closely together.”
The emphasis in practice this week according to Hardie is shorter, quicker repeats so that it helps the runners get a faster leg turnover. This is something Hardie refers to as “sharpening the sword.”
“That premise means we are getting ready for a big battle that is ahead,” Hardie said. “So we are just trying to tighten things up and get you to be a little bit quicker so we can get some points at the back end of the race when we are kicking.”
For Kolencik the shorter and quicker repeats have her and her teammates feeling ready to race Saturday. The change, distance and speed also didn’t not seem to affect them in any way.
“We felt good,” Kolencik said. “We did 400’s and 800’s and I just felt really close with the girls and I think we felt strong.”
Last year’s team was plagued with injuries and the Jackets narrowly escaped with a victory over Grove City College.
This year however, the team has been relatively healthy with only a few minor injuries throughout the season.Hardie says team morale has been the best he has seen in his 11 years as head coach.
“One of the reasons is we are giving a lot of longer breaks,” Hardie said. “Periods away from the team and a lot of independence and a chance for the runners to step away for a few days at a time. They still get workouts in and whenever they are here, they are more buckled down.”
Letting the team workout on their own takes a large amount of trust and is something that not every coach is willing to try.
“There are two things that I focus on with trust,” Hardie said. “One is communication, this team communicates really well so if someone isn’t going to be there, they are really good about communicating with the coaching staff. The other part is accountability and if an athlete is accountable [themselves] then they can hold the team accountable.”
If Waynesburg can successfully defend its title it will be The Jackets’ fourth consecutive championship in what has become a small dynasty Hardie has created. A key to having such successful teams is keeping them calm throughout the week leading up to the race.
“They are going to need to be consistent like they have been all year,” Hardie said. “And not get wrapped up in the moment. That is important in a race like this is not getting to amped to early. And I am pretty confident the can do it again.”