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ONU women's cross country team to race in regional meet on Saturday

Ohio Northern runners at the starting line of the OAC Championships Oct. 28. (Photo/ONU Sports)

Seven Ohio Northern women’s cross country runners will race at the Great Lakes regional meet Saturday at noon in Powell, Ohio. This group includes senior Emily Richards, juniors Ashlie Baumann, Colleen Grainger, Avery Ewing, and Kristina Myers, sophomore Zoe Schilling and freshman Megan Wright. Freshman Chyanne Retcher will also travel as an alternate.

Head coach Jason Maus looks forward to this Saturday’s race and what these athletes will accomplish.

We’ve got to be better than the OAC meet,” Maus said. “We were 10th in the region last year. We’re currently ranked 10th in the region again this year. I think the expectations are that we go in and we compete hard.”

The team finished fourth at the OAC Championships on Oct. 28 at the Clinton Heights Golf Course, where senior Emily Richards and junior Ashlie Baumann each earned first team All-OAC honors. Richards finished second of 120 runners with 22:04.4 while Baumann followed in sixth with 22:42.9.

While the team came out ahead of five other schools and brought them to 68-29 on the year, their placement was not exactly the one on which the team originally had in their sights.

The Polar Bears placed fourth at the 2016 OAC Championships, a performance which they intended to beat this year. For Maus, he hoped conference would show the positive strides that the group has made throughout the season.

“The competitiveness, the comradery, the growth and development of the team and the program... we’re a lot better than we were a year ago. So in that aspect, that excites you,” Maus said. “But man, I would have like to have been second or third. To see the rewards of that effort and that growth.”

This first area of growth, competitiveness, was the one aspect junior runner Elizabeth Steele worked on the most during her training this season. Steele, who has battled injury issues this season, has been in and out of the team's top seven.

“That’s something that Maus talked to me a lot about at the beginning of the year,” Steele said. “Because I’m not quite at the front of the pack. I’m more towards the back. But it’s just being competitive within the pack that you’re in and taking chances. And when that pack moves, being confident enough in yourself to go with them.”

The women’s cross country team will continue to work on their competitiveness as they enter the regional race this Saturday. They will run against the same teams who were at the OAC Championships including the first-place Otterbein, second-place John Carroll and third-place Mount Union, as well as others from around the Great Lakes area.

Senior Emily Richards considered fourth place at conference “a punch in the gut.” However, she looks forward to what her team can deliver this Saturday.

I think this is our chance to show what kind of team we really are,” Richards asserted. “And to really put together a race after conference because I don’t think the meet really showed what we’re capable of.”

Richards and Baumann are returning All-Great Lakes Region athletes and intend on qualifying individually for the NCAA III National Championships meet this year. Richards finished 19th of 232 runners in 22:27.9 and Baumann finished 34th in 22:54.9 in the 2016 regional meet. They must finish fifth or better overall on Saturday in order to qualify for nationals on Nov. 18 in Elsah, Ill.

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