The women’s cross country team is gearing up to make a run at the postseason and a potential 11th straight trip to the NCAA Championships. Despite injuries to several key runners this season, the team has stayed the course because runners have stepped up to the challenge of leading the team.
Junior Heidi Baumbach and senior Alissa Kersey have led the way for the team this season, finishing first and second in six different races this year. Baumbach and Kersey have picked up the pace at the top of the team’s lineup in the absence of sophomore Jenn Randall.
Randall, who was the Empire 8 Rookie of the Year in 2009, missed five weeks this season after being diagnosed with tendonitis because of pain in her ankles. Not only did Randall have to recover from tendonitis, but she was also diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, a common running injury to the bottom of the arch of the foot.
Randall returned to the Blue and Gold Saturday at the New York State Collegiate Track Conference championships, placing 11th overall.
“It’s still not 100 percent, but it’s definitely getting a lot better,” she said.
While Randall continues to cross train to get back to full strength, Baumbach said just having her back in the lineup gives the team a boost going into regionals Saturday.
“Adding her into the mix definitely helps us,” Baumbach said. “It gives us that much more confidence, as we are one runner stronger than before.”
In addition to Randall’s injury, fellow sophomore Meghan Shanley, who finished 7th on the team at nationals last year, has struggled with knee pain and will sit out the remainder of the season.
“My injury was complicated because [doctors] were unsure how it happened and what it actually was,” Shanley said. “I had several diagnoses — they said I had patellofemoral syndrome because of where my pain was located on my knee.”
Baumbach said the team needed to step up and fill the void left by Randall and Shanley and everyone is doing their part in practice.
“Everyone has been working really hard,” she said. “In workouts and races we are all just working together, and that’s been helping.”
Early in the season, the team did 800-meter repeats, and then progressed to longer 1,000-meter distance runs. But in the past few weeks, the Bombers have returned to 800 meters to work on sharpening their speed for the faster-paced championships ahead.
“The 1,000s help prepare us for race scenarios, and the 800s help increase the turnover and get the legs moving faster,” Baumbach said.
Kersey, who was limited to only two races last year because of illness, said her success is something that has come as a surprise to her this year.
“I’m still in shock with my results and would have never guessed I’d be running in the No. 2 spot on the team in a million years,” she said. “But I’m really happy I can help the team out.”
With the addition of Randall and the recent success of Baumbach and Kersey, Baumbach said the goal of a trip to nationals is still alive.
“We just have to continue the momentum from states into conferences, then regionals,” Baumbach said. “If we keep finishing like we have, we will be in a good spot.”