Both Cross Country teams qualify for Nationals

By GREG MELICK | November 16, 2017

B10_CrossCountry

HOPKINSSPORTS.COM Junior Ellie Clawson was named Mideast Conference Runner of the Year.

This past weekend, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams travelled down to Dickinson College for the Mideast Regional Championship with a chance to advance to the National Championship race on the line.

The women’s team performed up to their number one national ranking and won the race with only 32 points. They beat second-place Elizabethtown College by 68 points and secured their 10th consecutive Regional Championship.

On the men’s side, the Jays took advantage of pack running to finish in third place. While only the top two teams from each region automatically qualify for the National Championship meet, the Jays earned an at-large bid, so they will still be competing next weekend.

“I think regionals has always been a fun race for us because of the great atmosphere and the success we’ve had in the past,” junior Felicia Körner said.

While 10 consecutive Regional Championships is a great accomplishment,  Körner explained that the women’s team has its eyes on a bigger prize.

“The team’s goal is to defend our [National Championship] title, and we talk a lot about how that’s more important than any ranking or PR we might achieve individually,” Körner said.

If the Hopkins women do defend last year’s National Championship title, it would be their fifth NCAA Championship in the last six years. This would be a remarkable accomplishment for head coach Bobby Van Allen, who recently received Mideast Region Women’s Coach of the Year honors.

However, this kind of success does come with the distractions of increased publicity, which the Jays must not let go to their heads. This year, the star performer has been junior Ellie Clawson, who continued her dominant year by coming in first place at Regionals. With her impressive finish, she was named the Mideast Region Athlete of the Year.

Clawson also finished in first place in the Centennial Conference Championship, which helped earn her the Conference Runner of the Year award.

While Clawson will surely receive more accolades before the year is over, her teammates are not far behind. The team took four of the top six spots in the regional race, with freshman Therese Olshanski, senior Caroline Smith and Körner finishing fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

The sixth-place finish was a welcoming sight for Körner, who has only participated in three races this year due to nagging injury issues.

“I think it wasn’t so much important for me personally to do well but more for me to prove to myself and the rest of the team that I’m healthy and ready to contribute,” Körner said. “I feel a lot more confident now going into this next week, and I think that’s exactly what I needed.”

Last year, Körner was the leader of the National Championship team, as she was named both Centennial Conference and Mideast Regional Runner of the Year. While this year has not been the year she had hoped for, Körner will still get a chance to help her team win yet another National Championship.

Sophomore Kristin Meek finished in 16th place to round out the top five for the Jays, while sophomores Rebecca Grusby and Lauren Jacob finished close behind in 17th and 22nd, respectively.

On the men’s side, there is a lot of confidence going into the National Championship race.

“Going forward we couldn’t be more excited for Nationals,” junior Scott Pourshalchi said. “There is obviously pressure coming off our best finish from last year, but our times and spread over this season indicate that we are the fastest we have ever been.”

Pourshalchi led the way for the Jays at the Regional, coming in fifth place, the highest finish by any Hopkins runner in the history of the Regional.

Following behind Pourshalchi was a pack of Jays who all finished between 15th and 41st. Junior Ollie Hickson finished in 15th, followed by seniors Panth Patel and Louis Levine in 20th and 30th, respectively.

Senior Charles Thornton rounded out the top five for the Jays with his 33rd-place finish, and freshmen Conner Delahanty and Jared Pangallozzi finished in 36th and 41st, respectively, in their first experience at a Regional meet.

Hopkins will be looking to perform at the National Championship, where last year they finished in eighth place for the first top-10 finish in program history. Pourshalchi said that there is a lot to look forward to for the Jays.

“Our average time was the fastest it has ever been on this course, and our spread was even smaller than it was at Conferences,” he said.

The Blue Jays are getting faster as the season goes on, which is a good sign going into their biggest race of the year. They are also taking advantage of the breadth of fast runners they have.

“Our strength this year lies in our depth. My hope for the race is to see all seven of our guys race together and use our excitement and energy to push our pack to the front,” Pourshalchi said. “Our main goal is to try and improve on last year’s performance and get us one step closer to the podium.”

The NCAA Championship races will be held on Saturday, Nov. 18 in Elsah, Illinois. The men’s race will be at 12 p.m., and the women will run at 1:15 p.m.

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