Edinboro women’s cross country takes PSAC crown

Category:  Sports
Wednesday, October 25th, 2017 at 5:31 PM

The new look Edinboro men’s and women’s cross country teams kept a long time tradition strong this past weekend with victories in both conference championship races. A revamped women’s team, led by freshman sensation Stefanie Parsons, took the team title with 87 total points, topping Shippensburg who couldn’t quite keep pace with Edinboro’s top three finishers.

Senior Austin Pondel, formerly of Penn State, took the individual title on the men’s side, the first winner for the Fighting Scots since Scott Anderson in 2010. Pondel beat Shippensburg’s top competitor by 12 seconds as the team took second place overall, a mark they will hope to hold at the regional championships for a national bid.

“We finally got to the PSAC Championship. We came into the weekend with some plans, went through some race strategies, and to see it play out and be successful made for a really great weekend,” said Pondel. 

Big time performances came from both squads, most notably with those who are hitting their stride at exactly the right time. Mikey McLaughlin, a long time competitor in the program, has never quite been pleased with his performances as a Fighting Scot, but this past weekend at Cal’s George H. Roadman University Park was different.

“It’s amazing to see. This is a senior who has done nothing but work his butt off for four straight years now,” redshirt junior Corey Wefing said. “The way he’s developed shows lengths on his drive and dedication. We’re happy to have him toe the line each race.”

McLaughlin added: “Everything is coming together at the right time. All the summer miles and early morning doubles are paying dividends. It’s great to be in the top seven for the championship season, but the most important races are yet to come, so I gotta stay focused and not become complacent.”

Steven Sheetz, who had a slow start to the year, came into the season with extremely high expectations. His performance at PSAC, placing him a few spots ahead of McLaughlin, proves he too is primed for an uptick in performance.

“From a point standpoint it obviously helps us putting our six and seven in front of other teams’ five because it adds points on to them,” Head Coach Ryan Foster said.

He continued: “I think from an individual accomplishment standpoint, particularly from Mikey, I thought that was a great moment. At the end of the day, it probably didn’t change the outcome of the score, but for them to go and run one of the bigger races of the year and have one of your better performances, it made me feel really good from a coaching standpoint. To see them get to have a really good moment in their career and for Mikey, his last PSAC championship to have what might have been his best race in his career here.”

Eugene Baritot, who placed sixth overall, referenced his time with Sheetz over the summer. “Living with Steve has shown me just how talented of a runner he really is. I know he had a shaky start to his season, but he has been showing a steady improvement.”

He continued: “Lately, he has been working like a maniac. I believe that if he has a day where everything comes together for him, he could be a huge contributor to our team. Steve is a top three guy in my opinion, [and] he could put us over Ship.”

Brooke Messinger came through big for the Scots in the women’s race with a breakthrough performance. In the final stretch, she passed Shippensburg’s Lydia Cagle, finishing six tenths of a second ahead of her. The two point swing was crucial to a Fighting Scots victory.

Parsons elaborated on the meaning: “It was great to see her have a great race. Her training has been going really well and to have a big breakthrough like that when it counts means a lot.”

Winning the team competition by the smallest margin of victory in PSAC history, a lot of different things had to go right. Parsons, who finished second overall, beat two competitors by within one second of her. Jasmine Fehr was flanked by four competitors, all of which were within five second of her. 

“On the women’s side, it’s a little bit surreal that we actually pulled it off. Kara and I were on a run Sunday morning decompressing and talking about the last year’s journey and the fact that as a team, we pulled it together and in such a wild fashion. To win the closest race in history and to do it with five freshmen scoring,” said Foster.

He continued: “If we had been second on Saturday, I wouldn’t have been disappointed at all because I know how hard they ran. They really put it out there. It was one of those things, it happened in this manner that makes it so awesome.”

The women’s team placed 7th in 2016. This was just a year after winning in 2015.

“It was a really great experience. Everyone was able to keep it together and even though it’s all our first PSAC meet, we gave it everything we had and were able to come out and perform like we did,” Parsons said.

She continued: “We’re excited for what’s to come. We still have four years together so it’s going to be big. We’re looking to make the national meet with all freshman and honestly, I don’t know if that’s ever happened before.”

Looking forward, the cross country team will travel to Lock Haven for the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional meet on Nov. 4.

“The key is on the men’s side we move up to 10k. Going from 8,000 meters to 10,000 meters, so that makes a difference. I do think we are better suited at the 10k distance. I think Austin will be better at that distance, Jon, Colton...the majority of our guys, the further they go the better they are. So that help us,” Foster said. 

“On the ladies side, the distance stays the same but we move to a flat course. I think we’re going to be even better. The course on Saturday was probably one of the toughest possible courses for the makeup of our team. Where as the regional meet is more conducive to performances from track athletes and when you look at our women’s roster, they’re very accomplished on the track. It’s flat, it’s fast, it’s really going to suit both genders going into this meet.”

Pondel added: “The course is very flat, it’s going to be fast, but the regional meet is simply a stepping stone to the national meet. The meet means more as a race to see how it plays out and how that’s going to affect the national meet.”

Michael Lantinen can be reached sports.spectator@gmail.com.

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