For the fourth time in five years, Waynesburg University’s women’s cross country program will send a runner to the national tournament.
Sophomore Aubrey Wingeart, two weeks removed from taking first at the 2019 Presidents’ Athletic Conference championships, took 10th place at Saturday’s NCAA Division III Mideast Regional tournament.
Before the race, head coach Chris Hardie projected that Wingeart would need to place in the top 20 to qualify. While the region only ended up sending 12 runners, Wingeart still ran well enough to be selected.
“I was extremely nervous,” Wingeart said. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, I was sitting on the outside looking in. I started moving up after the first mile, and it gave me some confidence. I said ‘I’m going to try and do this today,’ and just kept going.”
Wingeart came on strong as a freshman in 2018, and for Hardie, being a national qualifier was a natural next step to take.
“She got really hungry after that year when she was just 15 seconds out of nationals last year,” Hardie said. “So, I think her natural progression is, ‘this is the next step.’ So it doesn’t surprise me.”
The Jackets performed well as a group aside from Wingeart, placing 13th in the 49 team field. Hardie said juniors Gianna Pugliano and Nicole Shelton– both of which made the all-PAC team two weeks ago, were among those who stuck out. Shelton placed 46th with a time of 22:56.1, and Pugliano was the fourth of the Jackets scoring five to cross the line at 23:59.1. Sophomore Gloria Reed joined Wingeart and Shelton in placing in the top 100, finishing the course in 23:35.3. Rounding out the top five was another sophomore, Monica Kolencik, who ran a time of 24:23.7. Although the Jackets fell short of the top 10 finish they had hoped for, Hardie was pleased with the race overall.
“I think they ran really well,” Hardie said. “It was a good day, I think there were a couple of other personal best. We’re really excited for them. I think Gianna Pugliano and Nicole Shelton were close again. So I think, overall, it was a good day.”
Usual powers Johns Hopkins and Dickenson took first and second place. Rounding out the top five were Carnegie Mellon, Haverford and Swathmore.
Wingeart is the first Jacket runner to qualify for Nationals since the Latimer twins, Katie and Emily, did so in 2016. Previously, Julie Gerber qualified in 2015. The national tournament will be held in Louisville, Kentucky.
As great of a day as it was for Wingeart, she’s still not sure if her performance at Regionals tops what she accomplished at the PAC championships two weeks prior.
“Winning PAC’s with the team was really great, so I don’t know,” she said. “I put it even I guess. I wouldn’t put it above PAC’s.”
Wingeart will lead a strong core of returners next season, as the Jackets look for a fifth straight Presidents’ Athletic Conference championship.