By Erin Townsend
The women’s cross-country team wasn’t ready to hang up their running shoes just yet; walking away as first place champions at the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Championships this past Saturday, Oct. 24.
Hosted at Florida Southern College, the SSC Championship was the last meet for the team before the regional competition on Nov. 7 at Saint Leo University.
The women’s team finished with an impressive 28 total team points, with rival Saint Leo coming in close behind 29 points. The Spartans had six runners finish in the top ten. Their dominating presence on the leaderboard helped them grab first place by just one point.
“As a whole, the team did outstanding. The season has been very good but we finally raced with excellent results,” head coach Jarrett Slaven said.
Senior Chantalle Blundell finished second overall with a time of 22:17.10, while Graduate student Juli Boehm, junior Claudia Cancello, senior Danielle Kissel, and junior Elaina Cancello were fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth respectively. In addition, senior Aimee Epps finished tenth and sophomore Aislinn Sroczynski finished thirteenth. Blundell credits their successes to simply being prepared.
“The team finally clicked this weekend and ran like we do in practice. We had a great pack of girls running together and pushing one another. It is by far the best performance we have had all season as a team,” Blundell said.
This was the second year in a row that Blundell has placed second at SSC. Both years the first place spot has gone to Saint Leo’s Colette Rampf, who ran a time of 21:39.60 this year.
“Every athlete is their own hardest critic. I took second for the second year in a row. I was hoping for an individual conference title but it wasn’t my day. I am happy I was able to lead the team and help push my teammates throughout the race,” Blundell said.
The cross-country team has two weeks to prepare for regionals. Though they had a season that started off slower than they would have liked, they came back just in time for the SSC Championship.
Blundell said that the reason the team performed so well is that it felt like the team finally synced up into a good rhythm where they were able to encourage and push each other.
“This season has been good. We have such a strong girls team this year. Even though we did not really click until conference every race has brought everyone a learning experience. Every race has taught each of the girls to treasure the races that are good or bad,” Blundell said.
They are excited to have a fresh championship under their belts and to have found the rhythm they were looking for all season. They are setting their eyes not only on the upcoming regionals, but taking back the national championship.
Coach Slaven said that he predicts at least a top-three finish at regionals this year. He hopes that another first-place finish for the team is possible if the team performs with the same effort as they did at SSC.
“All of the girls should be proud of the season thus far and for the varsity girls continuing on to regionals we have a lot to look forward too,” Blundell said “I think if we run like we did at conference we will bring home another regional title.”
The men’s cross-country team finished fourth overall at SSC, also qualifying for regionals. Senior Tyler Blackburn had a notable performance, finishing eighth overall with a time of 26:01.00.
The 2015 NCAA South Regional competition will be at 8 a.m. on Nov. 7 at Saint Leo University. The NCAA National Championship will wrap up the team’s season on Nov. 21 in Joplin, Missouri.