Below is a story I wrote for Flotrack on the Georgetown women’s cross country team heading into the NCAA championships on Monday.
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
That’s the approach coach Chris Miltenberg and the Georgetown women’s cross country team have taken over the course of this season that has seen its ups and downs for the Hoyas.
Ranked number one in the preseason polls, Georgetown entered the season with the burden of high expectations from outside observers, but Miltenberg did his best to minimize pressure within the team.
But due to a number of factors including inclement weather in the D.C. area, Georgetown got off to a slow start at its first two races.
The Hoyas finished fourth at the Paul Short Run without star senior Emily Infeld in the lineup. Infeld returned for Pre-Nationals and lead the team to an improved but unspectacular runner-up finish.
Despite mediocre early races, there were many positive signs that things were coming together for the Hoyas. Georgetown was third at the tough Big East conference meet but it wasn’t until the Mid-Atlantic Regional that they showed their true potential.
The women’s race was a wild one as the pace cart led the athletes in the wrong directly to add an extra kilometer to the race. In the end, the Hoyas tied Villanova for the regional title; the closest Georgetown has gotten to defeating the two-time national champions in several years.
The team’s depth was the biggest takeaway from Saturday’s race. Georgetown had its top seven runners through the finish line before Villanova’s fifth runner. Although only five score in cross country, the depth they showed may prove to be very valuable at nationals.
A strong freshmen group of Katrina Coogan, Annamarie Maag and Hannah Neczypor is largely responsible for the strong showing at regionals. Though not as highly touted as other blue-chip recruits, they have learned collegiate racing and fared better and better each time out on the course, providing consistent performances in the four and five spots.
Infeld also appears to be back on track after a second place finish at regionals to Shelia Reid. She’s progressed in every race after a minor injury forced her to miss some training in September. Reid looks hard to beat for the individual title but if anyone can upset her a conference rival like Infeld would certainly top the list.
With the strong young core stealing headlines, it’s easy to overlook veterans who’ve had an equally big impact on the team’s success. Juniors Emily Jones and Kirsten Kasper were both top 15 finishers at Big East while senior Claire Richardson bounced back from a tough Big East race to be the team’s third woman at regionals.
Georgetown has been on a steady progression this fall but how high can they peak? On a good day, the ceiling for the Hoyas could be that number one spot that the polls projected back on day one.