Women’s cross country finish Fifth in WIAC


photo courtesy of Paige Fassbender

Junior runner Paige Fassbender competes in the WIAC conference cross country meet

Mikey Rottier, Women’s Sports Editor

The Warhawk women’s cross country team placed fifth at the conference meet in West Salem, Saturday Oct. 29. The team was led by Sophomore Ari De La Cerda and Junior Paige Fassbender who have proved to be a powerful 1-2 punch for the team this season. 

Whitewater started off this season hot with two second place finishes in their first meets of the season, followed by a 17th out of 36 at the pre-national meet at Olivet College in Michigan. Head coach Jeff Miller is happy with the team’s improvement since last season.

“We were trying to be better than we were last year, that is always kind of a general goal,” Miller said. “We wanted to move up in the conference, last year we were sixth and this year we were fifth, so it has been going well.”

The Warhawks had three runners who earned all conference honors by finishing in the top 20. Fassbender was among them with a finish of 14th place, just 9 seconds behind Whitewater’s frontrunner De La Cerda who finished 11th. Freshman Payton Scoggin rounded out the all conference earners for the team with an 18th place finish. The newcomer Scoggin has worked her way into a solid third runner for the Warhawks this season.

“I am really impressed with Payton and the continuous leaps she has made throughout the season,” Fassbender said. “I am excited for her, as a freshman she has already shattered the 24-minute barrier, which is outstanding to see.”

Ari De La Cerda has also proved to be an important factor in the team’s success this season. De La Cerda and the veteran Fassbender have been able to build off each other’s strength and confidence all season and have helped propel each other to the top. 

We always talk about how our individual strengths really complement each other when racing,” Fassbender said. “Ari does a really great job at staying patient and pacing, and I tend to thrive when it comes to changing gears. I’m really excited to see what we continue to do together, and I think trusting our collaborative training is going to be huge.”

With the conference meet now under their belts the team will set their sights on the regional meet in Northfield, MN on the St. Olaf’s campus, Saturday, Nov. 12. 

“We want to be in the top ten again, top 8 if we can,” Miller said. “Once we start battling with the top 6 or 7 teams that is where it gets challenging, not that we can’t do it, it is just going to be a challenge.” 

Miller explained that Fassbender and De La Cerda both have the potential to qualify for the National meet at regionals, Nov. 12. 

“If they qualify that would be wonderful, but if they don’t they have both had really great seasons,” Miller said. “I told them just go and give it your best shot, you know it would be a great accomplishment for them if they made it, but mostly we are focused on placing better than we did at Regionals last year.”

Fassbender is confident that she and De La Cerda can make it to the National stage. 

“The ultimate goal is to qualify for the National meet. Through working with Ari, I think we have built up the confidence and mental strength it takes,” Fassbender said. “I know it is an achievable goal.”

The Warhawks will compete at the Regional meet in Northfield, MN, Saturday, Nov. 12.