Zach Thomann, Sports Editor
The Utica College women’s cross country won its first Empire 8 Conference Championship in the program’s history last Saturday at Parkway Fairways hosted by Nazareth College. The team posted a season’s best 29 points while the fastest seven runners finished in the top-20.
This is Stinson’s first individual conference title, who attributes the team’s success to being prepared both mentally and physically.
“The team went into the race knowing that we worked hard all season for this race and in the end it paid off,” Stinson said. “We knew that the course was going to be hard, so it was really important to run the race smart, which I think everyone did a really good job with.”
Head coach Eric Parker was not surprised by the team’s performance and believed they were capable of winning the event.
“Whenever you win a championship, it comes down to skill, planning and a little bit of luck,” Parker said. “We had a plan and they executed it perfectly.”
Associate head cross country coach Sam Catterson credits the team’s success to creating a plan for resting athletes throughout the season.
“This was the first time we put every girl out there running as hard as they could,” Catterson said. “Many of our athletes are capable of running at the front of a race.”
Catterson sees the regular season as a method to improve, but the overall finish is not important compared to the conference meet. He says that resting athletes is a common theme in cross country among schools to keep them fresh.
“Cross country races are difficult,” Catterson said. “You can’t kill yourself every weekend by running as hard as you can.”
Parker believes that resting is “all part of the process.”
“We plan during the entire season to be at our best when it matters the most,” Parker said.
The coaching staff’s primary focus for the team is to get better every week by tailoring their training to each individual athlete. They make sure every runner knows that when a teammate gets faster, the team improves as a whole.
Catterson believes this tactic helped Cooley the most because she battled injury and got the most rest. Cooley was happy with how the team has performed.
“You usually don’t expect the best times on race day, but all of the our girls did what was needed,” Cooley said.
Cooley is excited to see how well the team does in the NCAA Atlantic Regional at Houghton College.
“We have seen tough courses throughout the season and Houghton is very flat,” Cooley said. “This will give us an opportunity to really push for our best performances.”
The team is set to run Nov. 11 and will look to best last year’s 22nd place finish. Catterson has complete confidence that his athletes will be a contender in the regional race.
“We were happy with where we finished last season, but this year we want to get better,” Catterson said. “The success that our team has faced will motivate them even more.”