Cross country season in review

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The UD women’s cross country team races against the clock. Photo courtesy of UD Athletics.

The University of Dallas cross country teams concluded the 2018 season on Nov. 9 at the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) Championship meet in Virginia Beach, Va.

“I was pleased overall with the women [this year]; the vast majority of them stepped up and improved greatly this fall,” said Head Coach Matt Barber. “With the men, we experienced a little stagnation; there was some improvement and some regression.”

The cross country ranks increased in 2018 from 2017, the number of runners on the men’s team totaling 15, up by four from 2017. The women’s team added six runners, bringing their total up to 18.

The season began on Sept. 1 at the Dallas Baptist University (DBU) Patriot/Orville Rogers XC Opener, a Division II meet. The men’s team finished seventh out of eight teams at DBU, while the women’s team finished third out of six. Freshman Anna Wilgenbusch finished 13th of all runners, but scored 9 points, as the first 11 runners were all from DBU.

The season then progressed to the Texas Lutheran University (TLU) at the TLU Bulldog Invitational, where UD started its battle with this season’s most familiar opponent, TLU. On a rain-soaked, muddy course, both Crusader teams finished second behind the hosts. Sophomore Joseph Kilmer and junior John James finished second and fifth for the men, and Wilgenbusch and fellow freshman Sabrina Lucio finished third and fifth for the women. Wilgenbusch started her season-long duel with TLU junior Ashley Rynard as Wilgenbusch finished behind Rynard by nine seconds.

UD and TLU met again a week later on Sept. 22 at the Saints Invitational in San Antonio. TLU finished ahead of Dallas again in both races, second to third in the men’s race and first to second in the women’s race. However, Wilgenbusch flipped places with Rynard as Wilgenbusch was the individual meet winner among all Division III runners, posting a time of 21:04.5, just 1.3 seconds ahead of Rynard.

“Anna made tremendous strides starting [in the] Spring of her senior year, when Colleen Beatty became her distance coach at St Agnes,” Barber said. “She’s always been a great runner, but what we’ve seen from Anna in 2018 comes down to her own hard work and allowing Coach Beatty and I the pleasure of pushing her in practice.”

The season continued on Oct. 6 at the University of the Ozarks Invitational with the women’s team’s best race of the year. The Crusaders won the meet behind Wilgenbusch’s third consecutive top 5 finish, second place, with a low score of 33, defeating the hosts by 33. The men’s team finished second as Kilmer and James both cracked the top 5 again, third and fifth, respectively.

“I recognize that the Ozarks meet was weaker this year than in the past, but it was still cool to be able to say that we didn’t lose to a single school that weekend,” Barber said. “[The girls] ran their butts off and it was a very obvious reward.”

Weather cancelled the highly anticipated home meet on Oct. 13 for the Crusaders, eliminating the team’s final tune up before the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Championship meet on Oct. 27.

The SCAC Championship was the first time all season the Crusaders saw conference opponents Trinity University and Colorado College. Trinity and Colorado finished first and second, respectively, in both the men’s and women’s races. This was also the third time Dallas faced off against conference opponent TLU, and both of UD’s teams defeated TLU. The men’s team finished in 6th with a score of 162, narrowly beating TLU by 2 points, and the women’s team finished 3rd with a score of 106, 4 points better than the Bulldogs. Strong performances by sophomores Emma Kate Callahan and Clare Hernandez, along with junior Mary Korth, carried the Crusaders to their third place finish. Wilgenbusch finished 12th overall, earning her All-Conference honors, but she also finished two places behind Rynard, losing the tie-breaking race.

“Anna’s duel with [Rynard] was so much fun.” Barber said. “I think if we had had one more [race] after [conference], Anna would’ve [beaten] her again. It felt like winning that one individual match-up was the deciding factor in the team duel, though that is obviously far from the truth. Having a school that you see all the time be so close to you competitively is one of the most exhilarating things in sport. Bring on TLU again.”

The season ended with the trip up to Virginia Beach on Nov. 9 at the USCAA Championship.  The men’s team finished 6 out of 16, and the women’s team finished 4 of 11. Wilgenbusch ended her season with a 6k time of 24:32, placing 5th overall and earning USCAA All-American honors to become the twelfth Crusader and the fourth under Coach Barber to earn this award. Lucio and Kilmer both missed joining Wilgenbusch as All-Americans by one place.

The Crusaders had a lot of growth and improvements in the 2018 season, and Coach Barber believes the team will improve even more next season.

“Luckily we aren’t graduating anyone from the top 7 for next season,” Barber said. “But someone will be missing because of Rome on each team. You add together the next freshman class, whoever that ends up being, with a full team of returners and I anticipate great things. Are we a SCAC Champion level team yet? No. But, we should be better than we were this year.”

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