By LUKE BEDANAREK
For The News-Letter
Hopkins cross country competed in the NCAA Mideast Regional meet last Saturday, and the women’s team won the region, securing a spot in the National Championship next weekend, while the men’s team finished in fourth place. Senior Ryan Schwartz finished sixth, earning him an individual appearance in the Championship meet.
The Lady Jays dominated with their first three runners coming in under 22:00 in the 6K race, finishing as the first three overall en route to the team’s eighth consecutive regional title.
Senior Sophia Meehan, at 21:46, won the region individually for the second year in a row while her sister, junior Tess Meehan, and sophomore Caroline Smith finished not far behind. But every starter performed well on Saturday, leading to all seven Hopkins runners earning spots on the All-Region team.
“Sophia ran very comfortably so that she would be able to go into this upcoming weekend and really kill it in Wisconsin,” senior captain Courtney Kelly, who placed 11th, said. “Caroline performed extraordinarily, really pushing that last K and picking up a number of spots along the way. We are very proud of our performance at Regionals. We as a whole competed the best we have at any Regionals, in my opinion, getting our entire top seven as All-Region.”
A victory in the upcoming National Championship is their ultimate goal, of which they have been declarative all season after achieving such a title in the past three consecutive seasons.
“[At regionals] we were just looking to go into the race relaxed and controlled. Our real race is this weekend, and we didn’t want to kill ourselves the week before,” Kelly said. “We took out the race at a pretty slow pace comparatively to others, going 15 seconds slower in the first mile than we had at Conferences. We ran as a tight pack to encourage each other. We’re all feeding off each other’s energy. That’s how we’ve been doing so well this season.”
The Jays are currently ranked first in the nation heading into Saturday’s race, but still face stiff competition from teams like Williams and Tufts Colleges, who are ranked second and fourth, respectively.
“Williams and Tufts will be our top competition this year,” Kelly said. “Our goal during the race is, if we see one of their uniforms in front of us, to work hard until we pass them. And then we drop them.”
Hopkins will be racing for their fourth-straight championship at Lake Breeze Golf Club in Winneconne, Wis. in an event hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. The women’s race is at noon eastern time.
The cross country men will have a different end to the season, as their fourth-place finish last weekend was not enough to send the team to nationals.
“We are pretty disappointed to come away with a fourth place finish,” sophomore Louis Levine said. “Going into the meet we were ranked third, but hoped to better that. So to leave the meet falling short of our goal was frustrating.”
Levine was an integral runner for Hopkins this season as he stepped up to lead the team in several races this season.
Senior captain Ryan Schwartz, who finished sixth individually in the race with a 25:36 8k, will be the only Blue Jay in the men’s race at Nationals.
“I’m incredibly excited to compete at Nationals,” Schwartz said. “Never in a million years would I have thought as a freshman that I would qualify individually for Nationals. Of course, the feeling is very bittersweet. It won’t be the same to run without my teammates, and I wanted more than anything to have them racing by my side.”
After four years of running for Hopkins, Saturday will be his last cross country race as a Blue Jay. Along with Schwartz there are several seniors who will no longer be able to compete but have contributed speed and leadership to the team over the past years.
“Ryan has had a huge senior year, stepping up at the right time to qualify individually for Nationals. He’s worked hard during his time here and sets a really great example for the rest of us,” Levine said. “Billy Scola was also key to the team this year. He has great leadership and was an integral part of motivating the team and keeping us on track.”
Even with the departure of upperclassmen, however, the Hopkins team has reason for optimism in future seasons with talented young runners like Levine.
“When you look forward to the performance of this team down the road and the amazing untapped potential that our younger runners have, Hopkins will certainly have a great shot to take back that title next year and the years after. I’m really excited to see how the team will improve in the future,” Schwartz said.
The Hopkins men find themselves looking at next season; the women focus on this weekend.