Eastern women place 13th at NAIA title meet
VANCOUVER, Wash. — Wind, rain and a soggy course proved to be no problem for the Eastern Oregon University women’s cross country team here Saturday, as the ladies powered their way to a 13th-place finish at the NAIA Cross Country Championships at the Fort Vancouver Historic Site.
The Eastern women scored 321 points to again finish as the second best team among Cascade Collegiate Conference foes. Conference rival College of Idaho finished in the runner-up spot, losing to the University of British Columbia 98 to 112.
“The women really impressed me,” said EOU head cross country coach Ben Welch.
“I challenged them today to go out and run hard and that is just what they did.”
Senior Karlee Coffey, running her last collegiate race, led the way for the Mountaineers. Coffey finished her EOU career with a third-place finish. Her 17 minute 29 second effort left her behind only Hillary Holt of the College of Idaho (17:00) and Sharon Ronoh (17:20) of Lindsey Wilson.
Coffey ran in the front pack, which included Holt, Ronoh and Hannah Helker of Oklahoma Baptist, from the gun.
The foursome ran together for the first mile before Holt separated herself from the others.
Ronoh was the only one able to partially cover Holt’s attack but she was dropped by mile two.
Coffey and Helker ran together over the second and most of the third mile before Coffey was able to gap her and start to make a run at Ronoh. A gallant effort to catch Ronoh ended up short. Coffey’s third place finish matched her finish from last year.
“Karlee had a real solid plan and went out to execute it today,” said Welch. “I know that was not quite what she was looking for but we also don’t know what else she could have done. There has been only one other person outside of today who has run faster on this course.”
Coffey’s effort resulted in earning her all-American honors for the fourth consecutive year, the first time an EOU harrier, male or female, has accomplished that task.
Junior Jodine Steemers, running her first NAIA nationals, ran strong over the 5000 meter course to finish 35th (18:41). Steemers got out well at the start and positioned herself in the top 50 through the first mile. From that point she continued to move forward, running strongly over the wet and muddy course.
By mile two she had worked her way into the top 35, where she stayed to the finish.
“I knew that she was going to be better than she was in community college with how she ran last spring,” remarked Welch. “But she is driven. For her to be knocking on the door of being an all-American, I was not expecting that, at least this year but she was determined to give it a shot.”
Senior Leigh Anne MacCarthy continued to show her abilities as a cross country runner by finishing 68th (19:08). MacCarthy started the race conservatively, placing herself in the top 100 through the first mile.
By the time she reached the second mile maker, she had worked her way into the top 75 and continued to roll forward from there.
“L:eigh has been an absolute delight,” offered Welch. “Coming out of volleyball like that, in her fifth race ever and to finish well inside the top 100 at the national meet is a terrific deal.”
Senior Talissa Baldovino, ended her EOU cross country career with a solid finish of 136 (19:45).
Baldovino, like all the Eastern ladies, put herself in a good spot early in the race and continued to move forward as the race progressed. Over the last half mile of the race she was able to pass a number of ladies to earn her final spot.
Junior Cristal Delgado picked up the Mounties final scoring place with her 227 th (20:31) finish. Freshman Kailey Wilson and senior Jessianne Heley rounded out the Eastern women’s squad with finishes of 231 (20:35) and 234 (20:36) respectively.
The women’s team finish was the highest that Eastern has finished at the national championships since the 2002 team finished seventh.
The CCC finished the meet with four teams in the top 16. The College of Idaho second, Eastern 13 th, Northwest Christian 14th, and Concordia 16th.