The Case Western cross country teams shone last weekend as they completed at the All-Ohio Intercollegiate Championship competition in Cedarville, Ohio. The men’s team was the Division III Champion and the women’s team placed second in the unseasonably warm October race.
The men’s team was expected to beat out the division competition. They won the event last year and looked to rise to the challenge of the area runners. Senior David Dixon led the team as he placed second among the 143 Division III runners with a time of 25:57.43 and fellow Spartans Timothy Travitz and Wyatt Hoch also finished the race in good standing, 17th and 18th place respectively, with times at the 26:47 mark. The fourth and fifth runners for the team were sophomores Tony Spalding in 24th and Gilad Doron in 45th place with times of 27:00.94 and 27:35.77, respectively.
Despite the overall success of the day, Coach Kathy Lanese feels the team could have performed better. “The expectation was to win, but it wasn’t really in the best form,” Lanese said, “The top few runners on the team were good, but everyone else didn’t really meet expectations. We were very fortunate to come out on top, but it was an ugly win.” The ideal spacing between the top runner and the fifth best runner on the team is around 45 seconds. The fifth Spartan crossed the finish line over a minute and a half after Dixon, well beyond that benchmark.
Dixon, the co-captain of the team, acknowledges that the team didn’t meet personal expectations, but has a different perspective. Though he was disappointed with some of the individual showings, he is happy where the team is at this point in the season going into the more difficult meets ahead. In addition to the difficulty of the course and rough conditions, there were other obstacles the team had to overcome. “With running, there are a lot of mental blocks to get through. Coming in, trying to defend our title was a lot of pressure. For some of the more inexperienced runners, this was their first time running under that kind of pressure,” Dixon explained, “during a race you’re hurting so you try to rationalize things and settle for less than your best.”
Once the men learn to conquer this pressure, they should meet with more success. The next few meets are more competitive and the team may be able to think less about the consequences and more about achieving the best individual results.
On the reverse side of the high-pressure men’s team was the women’s team, led by sophomore Kelsey Aamoth. The women expected to be challenged among Division III rivals Oberin, Mount Union and Kenyon. The race was the longest of the year at 6,000 meters and the team had worked hard in practice preparing for the challenging weeks ahead.
Aamoth was the top runner for the Case team with a sixth place time of 23:50.17. She was followed closely by teammates Kristen Ruckstuhl and Erica Bauerbach who placed 27th and 33rd, respectively, with times of 23:16.91 and 23:26.43. The top five was rounded out by Lydia Greene and Dana Jeter who ran times of 23:50.41 and 24:02.17, earning 51st and 59th place. To have five runners all finishing within a minute of each other was a sign of dedication to sacrifice personal results for the good of the team.
“Personally, I don’t think it went that well, “ said Aamoth, “but we did really well as a team. We ran in more of a group and that team effort definitely helped. Individually we all felt it could have gone a little better, but finishing in second was really great.”
With the heat and humidity on this grueling course, teamwork was key. Lanese focused on the team motivation when creating her strategy for this meet and the women executed this to perfection.
“We knew first was a long-shot and fourth [place] was a real possibility. It was a real team effort that got them two second place and I couldn’t be more pleased,” said Lanese. She looks to emphasize this team mentality heading further into the season to bring all the female runners up to a new level.
The runners and coaches all know that the best way to achieve this goal is to work together to overcome physical and mental exhaustion in the long races ahead and both teams will continue to train hard in preparation for the Inter-Region Rumble in Oberlin Ohio on Oct. 19.
The team is familiar with the Oberlin course, and is hoping for nice weather to complement the flat landscape. It could be a very successful race for both teams as they look to gear up for regional and conference competitions next month.