Going in to Saturday's Mid-American Conference women's cross country championship meet, coach Sue Parks felt the race was going to be a toss-up. Any of four teams could emerge as the champion and the Cardinals had as good a chance as all other contenders. When the dust finally settled in Ypsilanti, Mich., the Toledo Rockets had claimed a narrow victory over the Cardinals, 71-79.
"I was pleased with the second-place finish," Parks said. "We lost four of our top five scorers from last year's MAC meet and we still came very close to winning the title, which is a great achievement."
While the champion Rockets can also lay claim to the individual winner, Briana Shook (17:49), the Cardinals had their share of individual achievements. Three girls placed in the top 12, earning all-conference honors in the process. Juniors Katie Nowak and Stacey Ritz placed second and third, respectively, garning first-team all-MAC consideration. Perhaps even more impressive was freshman Jill Scully, in her first ever MAC championship meet, finishing 12th and claiming second-team all-MAC honors.
"Our top three ran very well," Parks said. "Jill Scully finishing in the top 12 is a huge accomplishment. We have never had a freshman make all-MAC and she was also the top freshman in the race overall."
Parks also cites the strong effort of Ritz, who overcame tendinitis earlier in the season, and Nowak's second-place finish, the highest individual finish in school history, as noteworthy efforts in an overall high-quality performance.
"Stacey had an incredible performance considering the injury she had," Parks said. "The entire team was very focused and gave it their best shot to win the title. Toledo winning was no surprise at all. They were ranked ahead of us in the region all season long and were just a little bit better than us that day."
The Cardinals will take this weekend off before returning to Ypsilanti for the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet.