By John Crittenden
The Yeowomen Cross Country team enjoyed one of the best seasons in school history this year. Competing without their best runner from last year, they collectively rose to the challenge in winning their third consecutive North Coast Athletic Conference Championship on October 29. The Yeowomen also placed fourth as the host team in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship this past Saturday, November 12. The dominance exhibited by the team throughout their season earned them an at-large invitation to Nationals, which will take place on November 19 in Winneconne, Wisconsin.
The Yeowomen’s fantastic success this year has been a total team effort. By demolishing every division III Ohio school, the Yeowomen claimed the All-Ohio Championship. They then crushed their competition at the conference championship, accounting for half of the leader board by placing five runners in the meet’s top ten. Additionally, eight different Yeowomen earned all-conference accolades with four of them receiving all-region recognition as well. Number-one runner and second-year sensation Molly Martorella set the team’s pace. The highly competitive lineup after Martorella, however, has changed from meet to meet. According to junior captain Sara Terashima, “[the team's] two through nine runners have been interchangeable,” a “really rare” occurrence in fellow junior captain Caroline Martin’s experience. The Yeowomen’s team-first mentality has been essential, especially in light of former team-leader Joanna Johnson’s graduation last year. “This year we are so much more a team [in terms of racing] than last year,” explained second-year Margaret Lindman, adding, “we really do run in a pack … it’s easier to run with people when you have a teammate right there pushing you.” Deprived of Johnson’s unique talent, the team has banded together and risen to the occasion, pushing each other to new heights.
The closeness of the team in competition mirrors their close-knit friendship in day-to-day life. “It sounds corny,” Lindman says, “but we really are kind of a family.” Senior captain Nina Cole thinks the Yeowomen’s tight bonds of friendship “really [do] matter for how [they] race,” explaining that “because running is such an individual sport, there is competition that can develop between teammates, [and] … it can become a really nasty environment if there isn’t good cohesiveness, and we [have that]. We care about doing it for each other and not just ourselves.”
The standard of excellence maintained by the team is a tribute to the excellent coaching of Ray Appenheimer. All the Yeowomen speak glowingly of their coach’s impact on the team. He instituted a new workout regimen this year, with a lighter load at the beginning of the season to keep the team rested for the stretch run, and his experiment has clearly been a runaway success. Martin summed up the feelings of the team towards Appenheimer, emphasizing that “you can trust in him, he knows exactly what he’s doing, and he’s a great coach.” When many of the Yeowomen posted lower times than they were used to in some of the first meets, they were understandably skeptical of the light training early in the year. Appenheimer remained confident in his vision, and trust in their coach paid off when the Yeowomen dominated late season meets. “He’s definitely very dedicated to the sport and the team,” Terashima noted, adding that she “really [appreciates] that he puts academics at such a high standard,” not asking students to sacrifice their studies for the sake of athletics.
The consistent success of the Yeowomen over the last few years has left its members optimistic about their prospects for the future. Cole described the sustained success as creating “a positive feedback loop … [making] it easier to recruit faster runners.” Additionally, the majority of the team will be returning next year. With the team’s “top eight runners [coming] back next year,” and an influx of talented new recruits, Martin believes they “will probably be just as strong if not stronger next year.”