Wingeart’s magical cross country season ends at nationals

For the entirety of the 2019 season, everything had been going right for  Aubrey Wingeart. 

In particular, the month of November has been a magical one for the Waynesburg University sophomore.

At the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championships Nov. 2, Wingeart placed first overall and led her team to a fourth straight title. 

Two weeks later at the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional meet, Wingeart became Waynesburg’s fourth national qualifier in three years with a top 10 finish.

At Saturday’s national tournament, however, the stars didn’t directly align.

Wingeart arrived in Louisville Thursday in the midst of a rainstorm, and that proved to be an unfortunate omen for the weekend. Amid wet and muddy conditions, Wingeart placed 134 out of 180 runners.  

Wingeart felt she did what she could in trying to overcome something that was out of her hands. 

“I think it went alright,” Wingeart said. “I didn’t run the time I wanted to, but with the conditions, the course was pretty muddy.”

Wingeart came into nationals with the goal of setting a new personal record, beating her previous mark of 21:54. When she saw the course, however, she knew that was out of the question. 

“I wasn’t expecting to PR after I saw the mud and the standing water,” she said. 

Head coach Chris Hardie believesWingeart could have placed in the 50-75 range with stronger conditions and was pleased with the drive that his star runner showed through the mud and rain.

“I think she ran really well,” Hardie said. “The conditions were just really poor. Some of the poorest conditions we’ve had in my tenure here. So I think that she battled really well. She prepared well this week and battled really hard. But it just wasn’t meant to be with the conditions.”

Saturday was different for Wingeart because of the fact that she wasn’t running with her teammates. Although several Waynesburg runners came to support her, Wingeart felt strange warming up by herself and hopes that next year, the Jackets qualify for nationals as a team, something that hasn’t been accomplished in school history. 

“I’m really hoping we can make it as a team this time,” Wingeart said, “because it was a little depressing being on the line without the team and doing all my warmups without the entire team there. It made me more nervous not having everyone to talk to.”

Wingeart’s 2019 season will go down as one of the most successful in Waynesburg history, and perhaps the most exciting aspect of all, is that her journey is only halfway done. 

“I think she got a lot out of the way this year in terms of reaching her goals and setting lofty goals and then accomplishing them,” Hardie said. “So I’m excited to see what she wants to set again for next year.”

Now, it’s on to the next chapter. For Haride, Wingeart has a chance to achieve All-American status, among other objectives, before she graduates.

“When you get here, you’re always trying to go top 40 and be an All-American,” Hardie said.  “So those are going to be maybe some of those longer-term goals that I think she’s going to probably set her sights on for next season.”