Saratoga Springs - Heading into the RPI Invitational held in Saratoga State Spa Park with ideal running conditions, the Vassar women’s cross country team delivered its fastest performances ever for this meet in the program’s history.
On the 3-mile course, the Brewers placed second, scoring 49 points and were led by sophomore Aubree Piepmeier (6th place, 18:22). The Brewers made for tough competition against the nationally ranked teams of St. Lawrence, who placed first in both men’s and women’s races. St. Lawrence won the race with 19 points, followed by Vassar (49) and Liberty League newcomer RIT (77).
The women’s top five consisted of Piepmeier, senior Elizabeth Forbes (7th place, 18:27), junior Kelly Holmes (9th place, 18:40), and freshmen Harper Cleves (13th place 18:52) and Viviane Ford (14th place, 19:06). Head coach James McCowan was especially pleased with a performance this strong, at this point in the season.
"This is a step in the right direction," McCowan said. "There are things we could still do better, but being this fast and strong now only means were getting fitter and stronger and faster. It’s a very promising look."
With two freshmen in the top five, four runners under 19 minutes, nine runners under 20 minutes, and the entire team running sub 20:40, the team’s depth is tight. From the first scorer (Piepmeier) to the fifth (Ford), the spread was 44 seconds, indicating that the team’s top scorers are running a strong front pack.
"We need to improve our depth and get closer together, but we’re doing a good job of penetrating the top couple of spots," McCowan explained. "They were really competitive coming off the starting line, and were really assertive. Across the board, it was really exciting. It shows that they want it."
One of the strongest aspects of the teams, McCowan noted, is that the top runners on each side are interchangeable; there is no set order that the team falls into.
"The top runners can switch it up," McCowan said. "Even if on paper the order of names changes, we can still have really good results."
It was the perfect day for running, according to top finisher Piepmeier. Going into the race, she was looking forward to running with some of the league’s best runners and competing on that level. Overall, her goals include mixing more with runners from St. Lawrence, since they are a team the Brewers will compete against later in the season.
"I know who I’m working with now," Piepmeier said. "I’m not intimidated now. I know I can handle competition in the future, and I know who to go up with."
Piepmeier attributed part of her race to working with Forbes, who was racing for the first time since Nationals last fall. Forbes, who was battling some calf strains in the beginning of the season, was back on track for this race.
"I was really excited and really nervous at the same time," Forbes said. "It’s been a slow process getting back into the race mentality… I know I’m capable of more and I’m excited to find out what that is."
The Brewers will race next on September 30th, at the Paul Short Invitational, hosted by Lehigh University and held in Bethlehem, PA.