Both cross country teams accomplished their objectives at the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championships two weeks ago.
The women came into Westminster looking for their fourth straight conference title and got it. The men had more modest expectations, looking for a top-three finish, and they too fulfilled their goal, placing in third.
After two weeks away from competition, Waynesburg returns to action today at the NCAA Division III Mideast Regionals in Lehigh, Pennsylvania.
Head coach Chris Hardie is looking for a top 20 finish for the men, and the women, a top 10 finish. The men have never placed top 20 at Regionals, and have a chance to do so Saturday.
For the women, the main storyline will be sophomore Aubrey Wingeart. The 2019 PAC individual champion has a chance to be Waynesburg’s first national qualifier since 2016. For Wingeart, this is reason for both excitement and anxiety.
“I’m definitely a lot more nervous than I have been for the rest of the races over the season,” Wingeart said. “The race is going to be a lot bigger. The competition is going to be stiffer, I think than a lot of the other races.”
Both Wingeart and Hardie see Wingeart’s fate coming down to the wire.
“I’m right on the bubble,” she said. “I think I’d have to PR to make it, so that makes me nervous because I’m not sure if I can. I’d really like to PR, but we’ll see.”
Hardie said Wingeart sits 20th in the region based on his projections.
“I would say most years, that gets her in,” he said. “It’s kind of an odd year where there’s not a lot of team runners on top, there’s a lot of individuals from separate teams. So she may have to go top 15 to get in. But she’s definitely in the hunt.”
Both teams ran at Lehigh earlier this season in a different race, providing runners with a little bit of experience heading into today.
“I enjoy the course,” men’s runner Matt Durgin said. “There’s some rolling hills, but for the most part, it’s flat, with a lot of space to move around. The course itself is in good condition as far as the footing goes. There’s a lot of people that hit PR’s the first time we went out and previewed the course in October. I think a lot of people can probably get PR’s again on that course.”
Durgin is part of a talented junior class that has produced the bulk of Waynesburg’s scoring throughout the year. Another junior, Jordan Payne, paced Waynesburg at the PAC championships and might be running in his last race for the Jackets, as he plans on attending Penn-State Behrend next season through the engineering program.
Another runner to watch is freshman Jac Cockley. Despite hurting his knee at PAC’s, Cockley bounced back to finish second in the Jackets’ top seven. For Hardie, although Cockley has put that performance in his rearview mirror, running with pain will always be an issue.
“I think it’s just the makeup of him and his knees,” Hardie said. “He will have that throughout his career, so he just has to kind of manage it. That’s unfortunate for him, but I think he’s looked really good, and he is pretty hungry… he’d love to be close to that all freshman-team, which is the top seven freshmen in the region.”
Each team will race seven runners, as most of the Jackets’ seasons ended after the PAC Championships.