James Den Bleker, Staff Writer
The 2017 Utica College women’s cross country team had a noteable season this year as they were able to accomplish new highs for the program while also winning the first Empire 8 conference championship in the program’s history.
With championships come awards, and the Pioneers swept the Empire 8 awards. Utica was recognized for Coaching Staff of the Year, posting 29 points and seven athletes finishing in the top 20, four of them winning first team all-conference. Head coach Eric Parker was happy to receive the award, but knows his players worked hard this season.
“Our girls worked so hard this season, and they deserved to be recognized,” Parker said.
Utica had its best finish in history at regionals placing 13th this season.
The other coaches that contributed to this award were James Lemieux, Sam Chatterson and athletic assistant Ashton Villeneuve.
Another award given to the program was granted to freshman runner Jessica Ostrowski, who was given Rookie of the Year.
Ostrowski finished the Empire 8 championship in fourth place and was the fifth freshman at the NCAA regional meet to finish and placed 35 out of 285 runners.
“My team was really supportive, and my coaches were really supportive,” Ostrowski said. “They helped me get to where I am today.”
Ostrowski was able to finish the six kilometer race with a season best 22:57.5 and is the first Pioneer to win Rookie Honors since Katie Day in 2010.
The final award was given to Pioneer junior Kaitlyn Stinson, who received Runner of the Year honors. Stinson won the Empire 8 individual six kilometer championship race on a track that the coaching staff considers one of the toughest courses to run on.
She finished with a time of 23:55.4, becoming the first in the program’s history to win the individual title.
“I guess I was pretty surprised,” Stinson said. “I didn’t think that it would happen, so I was shocked.”
Stinson followed up her individual conference title with a 23rd place finish at NCAA Regionals. She recorded her best time of the year, posting a 22:45.6 time, which is the third fastest six kilometer time in school history.
Three of the seven athletes who finished in the top 20 in the Empire 8 race also earned Second Team All-Conference honors.
The team hopes to build on this season and is extremely focused on making nationals next year.
“I have two years left, so next season I expect to get better than I was this year,” Stinson said. “Hopefully I could go to nationals, but we’ll see.”
“I’m definitely expecting my times to go down and hopefully go to nationals with my team or individually,” Ostrowski said. “But the goal right now is to get better and better each season.”