By Lauren Keegan
Lewis & Clark Cross Country returned to their home course at McIver Park in Estacada, Ore. on Saturday, Oct. 27 to host the Northwest Conference (NWC) Championships for NCAA Division III cross country. Conference hosting rotates each season between the nine teams in the NWC.
136 runners went head-to-head for the conference title, 73 in the women’s race and 63 in the men’s race. The women’s race is six kilometers long, consisting of two three-kilometer loops, and the men’s race is eight kilometers, consisting of two three-kilometer loops plus a two-kilometer loop.
The tension in the air was palpable as the runners lined up in the starting blocks for the race. After the starting gun sounded from across the field, the stampede of runners moved like a wall and funneled into the course, hurdling grassy potholes and hornets nests as needed.
As the runners circled back after the first loop, teammates cheered each other on from the sidelines, reciting chants and touting school spirit. Some even laid on their stomachs in the dewy grass, pounding the ground with their fists.
Sean Richardson ’20 was LC’s top finisher on the men’s team. “Having a lot of friends there is definitely helpful,” Richardson said. “That’s definitely something that motivates me and pushes me. I could definitely hear my mom, she was so loud.”
After the final loop, the runners began their descent in the finishing chute lined with orange and black flags. The runners were hit with a barrage of yells of encouragement in the most nail-biting part of the race, and emerged at the end of the chute sweaty and breathless.
The men’s team finished with a cumulative score of 183 and a total time of 2:27:49. The runners’ finishing placement was Richardson in 5th place, Matt White ’21 in 32nd place, Elliot Jones ’22 in 59th place, Connor Robertson ’22 in 62nd place, and Jack Hyde ’22 in 63rd place.
“Relatively, the race was good for how the team is structured,” White said. “We have a lot of injuries and illnesses this year. I had mono in July right at the peak of my training, right as I was hitting 70-mile weeks. I had to take a month off for that, so I’m doing the best with what I’ve got right now.”
The women’s team finished with a cumulative score of 218 and a total time of 2:09:29. The runners’ finishing placement was Genevieve Serna ’21 in 26th place, Samantha Bowen ’20 in 38th place, Etta Moen ’21 in 41st place, Alexandra Coons ’21 in 57th place, Adalynn Griesser ’22 in 62nd place, Marcella Chavez ’21 in 69th place and Katie Hull ’19 in 71st place.
Serna describes the importance of being tactical and focused during the race.
“I knew my time wasn’t the best, but when you’re racing in conference, you’re trying to go more for placing and (catching) people,” Serna said. “I actually had race mentality which I’ve been struggling with this season. Instead of just running a race, I actually raced a race.”
Serna was LC’s top female runner this conference.
“It was a big accomplishment for me,” Serna said. “I’ve been in the top three consistently but being the top one was an extra push, you could say.”
After the race, all the teams assembled for the awards ceremony. There were awards on both the men’s and the women’s teams. Runner of the Year is awarded to the first place finisher, Freshman of the Year is awarded to the first finishing freshman and Coach of the Year is awarded to the best coach, which is voted on by all the coaches in the NWC. Runners placing eighth through fourteenth places are awarded Second Team All-Conference, and runners placing first through seventh places are awarded First Team All-Conference.
Richardson was awarded the title of First Team All-Conference for his fifth place finish. This is his second consecutive year earning the title after placing seventh overall in the 2017 season.
“Sean established himself early and came through,” Head coach Keith Woodard said. “The lead runners sat back and it helped him, he didn’t have to work on catching them and that was an advantage for him.”
His time was 26:20:4, which is on the slower end of his times.
“It was a slow course,” Richardson said. “I think everyone’s times were slower. It was a tough course with difficult footing, I stumbled a couple of times.”
LC Cross Country is competing in the regional championships hosted by Whitman College in Walla Walla, Wash. on Nov. 10.