Cross country wraps up a record season

The ECU women’s cross country team finished its best season with a ninth place finish out of 37 teams, at the South East Regional Championship. The meet was held at McAlphine Park in Charlotte, N.C., on Friday.

The ninth place finish was the highest the Pirates have ever placed at regional championship. ECU was led by Junior Bjork Olsen, who placed 18th out of 255 runners with a time of 21:04 for the six-kilometer race and was named to the all-region team. The 18th place finish was 121 spots higher for Olsen than she finished at last year’s regional.

“I felt great. We had big expectations, but (also we did) not because we are still young. We have the potential to do better next year,” said Olsen.

The team finished with and average time of 21:45 for the seven runners. In addition to Olsen, ECU was represented by redshirt sophomore, Stephanie Fresenius (21:49; 50th), junior, Chelsea Hollingsworth (21:51; 52nd), redshirt sophomore Olivia Slate (21:53; 56th), redshirt junior Stacey Gonzales (22:11; 79th), freshman Shewit Weldense (23:42; 186th) and redshirt sophomore Janet Bailey (24:04; 204th). Junior Kaylee Bythell traveled with the team as an alternate, but did not compete.

Olsen, Fresenius, Hollingsworth, Slate, Gonzalez and Bailey all set personal best times for the six-kilometer distance.

The strong finish at regionals was not unique because the Pirates had their top ever finish (third) at the Conference USA championship just a few weeks ago.

The successful season was a surprise to most people, because this was expected to be a rebuilding year. Last season ECU lost its top four runners from last season, with three graduating and Brooke Kott redshirting this season.

“This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Everything happened faster than normal,” said head coach Daniel Lee.

Last year was previously viewed as the Pirates best season, but this team finished two positions higher at regionals and one spot higher at the conference championship.

“We did really well, we finished ninth which is two spots higher than last year, and last year was our best team,” said Olsen.

Kott and the rest of the team are looking forward to next season and the expectations will be very high after this surprising season.

“I’m happy with my choice (to redshirt). It just makes me more excited for next year. I mean, I would have loved to race with them at conference and regionals,” said Kott. “I still work out with them and practice with them so I still feel like I’m part of the team. With everybody racing so well this year and everybody coming back, we should have even more improvement.”

Members of the cross country team are anticipating competing for a birth to the NCAA championship next year, while Coach Lee is hoping to see the team continue to improve.

This year’s success is building excitement for not only next cross country season, but also this upcoming track season. Expectations will be very high for ECUs track team as it prepares to defend the indoor conference championship and try to improve on the second place finish for the outdoor season.

“[The ECU Track and Field Team] get excited too, to see us do so well. They get pumped for the indoor season,” said Olsen.

Redshirt junior Cory Hampshire was the only member of the men’s team to compete at the regional championship. Hampshire finished with a time of 32:56.90 in the 10-kilometer men’s race.

“It was different being the only guy there,” said Hampshire “The women’s team did really well at regionals, it seems like they are headed in the right direction.”

 

This writer can be reached at sports@theeastcarolinian.com.

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