The Captains traveled to Seguin, Texas - just outside of San Antonio - with high hopes for team and individual accolades at the NCAA South/Southeast Region Cross Country Championships. The weekend was full of surprises - some good, some bad - the best of which was senior Jade Zaharoff's invitation to the National Championships.
Texas Lutheran played host to the South/Southeast Region for the NCAA Qualifier meet. Wind, drought, and lots of turns made the course run slower than the flat topography would indicate and challenged the competitors to get in to position early. The top two teams earned automatic berths to the National Championships along with the first seven individuals not on a qualifying team.
The women started the day with an early 9am start time. All seven of the Captains put themselves in prime position at the start in preparation for the first hard turns of the course. Jade Zaharoff (Vienna, VA) set the pace for the CNU harriers with Erin Rolaf (Woodbridge, VA) and Jessica McClelland (Stafford, VA) working together a few paces behind. Julie Machamer (Norfolk, VA), Karen Bumiller (Burke, VA), Sarah Russell (Manassas, VA), and Brittney House (Midlothian, VA) were strung out through the rest of the front half of the field.
As the race toured the TLU campus, Zahroff slipped from the top-10 in to the 15-20 range, but held solid there for the final kilometers. Rolaf was steady throughout as she managed the competitors in the 20-30 range, always keeping herself moving forward While McClelland could not quite match her teammate’s strength, Bumiller was moving well through the field off of her more conservative start. The junior looked stronger with every kilometer, eying a top-35 finish for All-Region recognition.
Over the final kilometer, Emory University had the team competition secured and either Rhodes, Centre, or Trinity was going to get the second automatic berth. That left coaches frantically counting places to find the cut-off for the individual berths to Nationals. Zaharoff tried to reclaim a few lost places and Rolaf was quickly coming up on her elder teammate. In the end, Rhodes claimed the runner-up title and that made 12th place the cut-off for individual qualifiers. Zaharoff finished in 18th (23:46.6) – two spots ahead of last year’s finish and with a much stronger field to contend with this year. Rolaf matched her 2010 finish in 19th (23:47.9). Both were close to their best-ever times for full-6k courses in spite of the soft, dusty footing. Bumiller charged all the way up to 27th (24:17.2 – fastest full 6k by 25 seconds) and her first All-Region finish.
McClelland (55th, 25:02.1) and Machamer (64th, 25:18.1) finished the scoring for the Captains – an adjusted 179 points for 5th place. That was just two points more than they scored in 2010 for 3rd place. Brittney House (91st, 26:02.2) and Sarah Russell (114th, 26:31.0) both finished their season with 6k-best times as did Machamer.
The story for the women did not end in Texas, however. It was not until after returning to Newport News that the at-large selections were announced by the NCAA – and the South/Southeast Region received a very unexpected third team berth to the Championships. With Centre in as a team, Zaharoff became the 7th individual finisher and was on her way to Wisconsin for her first National Championships.
The men’s squad actually flew to Texas with higher expectations than the women – the team competition was wide open and both Raymond Gamache (King George, VA) and Corey Lofton (Vienna, VA) were top-10 contenders on paper and the remaining six travelers (five to compete) believed All-Region finishes were in them. Lofton, however, had been battling a hip injury for over a month. Although he managed to run through it at Conference, it did not respond well to rest and treatment leading up to Regionals. At the starting line in Texas, the senior was forced to give up his spot to freshman Sam Martin (Rockville, MD). Adding to the drama, Gamache landed in Texas with a high fever and was quarantined from the team until race day. Still drained and dehydrated, he made a gallant effort – leading out the field and battling with the lead pack for the first mile – his energy reserves were simply inadequate and Coach Barreau pulled him off the course around the second mile marker.
The rest of the squad packed around senior William Kirk (Mechanicsville, VA) and after a promising start, slowly drifted back in to the field. Sophomore Patrick Cunningham (Williamsburg, VA) held on best with a 48th place 28:05.1 and Kirk was on his heels in 49th (28:09.3). Martin made the most of the last-minute opportunity to run and was the third Captain finisher (57th, 28:22.6). Aaron Zook (Harrisonburg, VA) (73rd, 28:39.0) and Brad Turner (Williamsburg, VA) (76th, 28:42.9) wrapped up the team scoring at 302 for a very disappointing 14th place. Freshman Donavan Lewin (Cape Charles, VA), recovering from leg ailments that kept him out of the Conference Championships, finished in 88th (29:01.6).
While Zaharoff extended her Cross Country season another week and prepares for the late-November chill of Wisconsin, the rest of the team now turns their thoughts to the oval and CNU’s Holiday Open on December 4th.
For complete CNU Results, check out the Results Page