After a year’s absence, SFU’s women’s cross country team is back at the national championship. After a year where the team was “a little complacent” according to head coach Brit Townsend, they finished second at the West Regionals this time around — good enough to qualify for the event on November 19 in St. Leo, Florida.
“Regionals were awesome, the girls really came through,” said Townsend. “They’ve had a set goal since August at our training camp that they wanted to make nationals. Last year they just missed, and I think part of it was [. . .] maybe they were a bit overconfident, but they just didn’t have that focus that was needed. But that focus was definitely there this year, and it’s shown in every single race that they’ve run so far leading up to the regionals.
“They were ready. They were ready going in, they knew what they wanted to achieve, and they went out and did it.”
However, it was a disappointing day for the men’s side. They finished ninth, which unfortunately was not good enough to qualify for nationals this year. In the year previous, they qualified and finished 12th at the national championships.
“I think they showed up at the regionals, it was at altitude, they had to run 10k, and they were so excited and determined they went out really hard. Faster than they should have, especially two or three of our runners.”
The Clan was led by Rebecca Bassett, who finished eighth in the individual rankings. Miryam Bassett and Julia Howley finished 11th and 12th respectively, while Addy Townsend finished 26th. These four runners will be expected to lead the way once again for SFU at the national championship, but coach Townsend also needs other runners to exceed expectations if the Clan is going to get a result.
“I need those four to do what they always do,” she explained. “What I need is my fifth, sixth, and seventh to do something beyond what they’ve done before. Pick off some people, get some numbers, especially our fifth spot, because that’s our last scoring spot. But sixth and seventh can still pass and make a big difference, because they can displace a fifth place runner on another team. So every part of it is really important.
“If we can close that gap from one to five, and make that really small, then we’re going to perform a lot better.”
That fifth runner is expected to be Reta Dobie, who has been “consistently in that spot all year.”
Now the focus turns to preparing for the event. The key for the women will be to refocus after putting all of their effort into qualifying for the national championship.
“The trick now is to refocus and set some new goals from the national championships. What can we achieve as a team? It’s not enough to just go there, we want to achieve something special.
“My goal and the goal we’ll discuss as a whole team is finishing in the top 10. If we can do that, then we’ve achieved something very special.”