Women’s cross country sees growth



Kaitlin Geisler, Assistant Women's Sports Editor

The women’s cross country team’s season ended with the team earning 12th in the NCAA regional meet on Nov. 12th. The team’s top runner of the meet, sophomore Ari De La Cerda placed 33rd at 23:09.

“Coming into this season overall as a team, I was just super excited. With all the new incoming freshmen to really build up and create an atmosphere that everybody would want to be a part of, and grow more as a family. And I really felt that happened. We all got together more and we started placing really much better at meets and it was so exciting to see how happy everybody was and how comfortable everybody felt being on this team. So that was a really important factor for me,” De La Cerda said. “And for me, personally, my biggest goal coming into the season, I wrote it down on a sheet, was to be all region. And I did end up getting that honor. So honestly, I’m super happy about it and I’m happy to walk away from the season with the best time I’ve ever run.”

Whitewater’s next highest placer was junior runner Paige Fassbender, whose time of 23:41 was fairly close to De La Cerda.

“I would say I was really happy with myself being able to stick with Ari during races. It really helps to have our duo going because it gives me something to push for, someone to go with and be confident racing with,” Fassbender said. “I think it was a really great experience and I think we pushed each other through the entire season until we concluded.”

Their strong duo status is something that head coach Jeff Miller also recognized.

“Obviously Ari and Paige were our top two runners all season. You know, they were racing together a lot and it was really, it was very helpful and beneficial. In the races they were very steady and allowed us to have a lot of consistency in the front so that was really good,” Miller said. “And then we have Payton Scoggin and she was our third runner most of the season. She really made a big step up this year and as a freshman she was all conference which is really hard to do. We had three runners be all conference.”

Miller also said he felt the overall team performance this season was strong, despite the regional results.

“Our ability to run consistently in the front, even two or three runners up in front of the packs of almost all races was something that stood out. Like regionals, that was probably one of our races that we didn’t run at our best level, but it wasn’t like it was bad. It was just we were hoping for a better outcome than 12th but in all the other races we pretty much just did what we were hoping to do. So that’s really where we did good,” Miller said. “Our goal going in was to beat last year. We were 22nd in the regionals and this year, we’re 12 and were ranked in the top 10 most of the season. So going into regionals was all much better than the year before.”

With the end of the season, that also means a loss of some of the runners for next year.

“I am definitely going to miss some of the seniors that are leaving. We have very influential people like Sara Niehueser, Roxanne Temple, Jill Cavanaugh, Kristan Larson. These girls are some of the hardest working and most dedicated people I’ve ever met in my life and when it comes to running, they put everything into it even though they also have so much else going on outside of it,” De La Cerda said. “It’s very admirable to see that they’re still doing everything that they possibly can for the team and their sport, even though they have all these other responsibilities in their life. So it will be hard losing some of those seniors that really made my experience the best it could have been. But yes, I’m also very excited for any new growth that we have coming in.”

The new people coming in for next year are something Fassbender also looks forward to, as well as the ability to improve.

“This year we improved in the conference and I think we can move up even higher next year. Ultimately the goal is to make that road go all the way to the national meet and so mainly staying healthy, and really building up our team for next year are priorities with this break,” Fassbender said. “I think with performances that we saw this year, I think we can do big things as an entire group next year.”