While most students at Waynesburg University were enjoying Homecoming Weekend on campus, the women’s cross country team traveled to Lehigh University on Saturday to compete in the 46th Annual Paul Short Invitational.
This meet is one of the largest in the country and includes an open race and races featuring teams from Divisions I, II and III, and high school.
Head coach Chris Hardie said the invitational had a big-meet feel to it.
“It’s actually ironic that you mention a comparison between Paul Short and nationals,” he said.. “As I stood a few hundred meters from the start of the race, I had a similar thought. It was a large field with many talented runners. But the one thing that was missing was that “buzz” you feel around the NCAA championship meet.”
After watching several of the races go off, the women went to the line for the opportunity to test themselves.
The Yellow Jackets finished in fifth place in a 45 team field, scoring 201 points.
“This was the first test for our ladies against some of the bigger competition. I think they responded well and performed a bit better this week than previous weeks,” Hardie said.
Sophomore Aubrey Wingeart led the team, as she consistently has this season, finishing fourth out of 376 runners.
“While I didn’t personally run a personal record, I felt pretty good throughout the race” Wingeart said. “I was able to move up in the field during the second and third miles rather than getting passed, which was a positive.”
Following Wingaeart for the Jackets was Nicole Shelton. Shelton’s time of 22:55 was good enough to grab a 21st place finish. Her race left Hardie optimistic for the remainder of her season.
“Nicole ran extremely well this week,” Hardie said.“She really elevated her game and we are excited for what the future has in store for her.”
After Shelton, Gloria Reed, Becca Volz and Monica Kolencik rounded out the scoring five. Freshman Madelyn Verhoff and junior Gianna Pugliano were the final members of the varsity seven.
“Madelyn Verhoff ran a very good race as well,” Hardie said.“She seems to be getting stronger each and every week.”
One runner on the women’s team had her own Waynesburg homecoming of sorts at Lehigh. Senior Kathryn Thompson, who is completing her marine biology major at Coastal Carolina University, attended the meet and ran for the Jackets.
“Kat Thompson is an amazing teammate and a very talented athlete,” Hardie said.“She stepped right in with this young team and provided some immediate leadership.”
Thompson led the team’s pre-race devotional before racing alongside her fellow Jackets. Thompson crossed the finish line in 25:49 in what was her first race of the season.
After the successful outing at Paul Short, the team will take a week off, and then cut short their fall break to return to Waynesburg University to prepare for their next meet at Oberlin College.
Following the Oberlin meet, the Lady Jackets look to defend their PAC title.
“We have had a singular focus regarding the conference championships, and that is to put ourselves in a position to compete for the championship,” Hardie said.