The men’s and women’s cross country teams both won the NCAC conference championship on Oct. 31. After the men and women were named NCAC champions, interim head coach Jordan Hill was named NCAC Coach of the Year.
“It’s a huge honor. The NCAC is a talented conference and there’s a lot of really good coaches,” Hill said. “To me it’s a reflection of the team as a whole, they have worked their butts of all season and they didn’t let anything that might have happened this season bother them or get to them. They welcomed me with open arms as their coach.”
Logan Steiner, ’16 said both teams are proud of Hill.
“For her, being an assistant coach the majority of the season and now being our head coach, it was a big shock that she got Coach of the Year,” Steiner said. “She definitely earned it. We’re doing really well with her, it’s awesome, we were able to bond as a family even with the lack of a head coach for a while.”
Following this season, Hill will take over as head coach for track and field while a national search for a cross country head coach will begin.
“I’m just looking forward to working for a team that I truly love and for a college that I truly believe in. Allegheny is a great place and I think we can build a special program here,” Hill said.
Alyssa Brindle, ’16 said she thinks the change will benefit both teams and give opportunity for more attention for each.
“I think it’ll be good because having just one head coach for both the cross country and the track and field coach was really stressful, and it can really overwork a person,” Brindle said. “It’s hard to manage the large number of people and worry about both teams. It’ll make sure coaches aren’t spread too thin and athletes can get more individual attention.”
Hill took over as interim head coach in September following Brett Wilkerson’s departure.
“The women’s team did exactly what they needed to do, they needed to close the gap with the top 5 and run as a close pack and they did just that,” Hill said. “Our spread was two, eight, nine, 10, and our fifth runner was 22nd. It was huge having our second, third and fourth runners right in a row. For the men, they did what they’ve been doing all season and running as a close pack and not letting each other go, staying together through the whole race.”
SJ Guillaume, ’17, finished second overall with a time of 22:41, eight seconds behind the NCAC champion Sarah Fowler from Ohio Wesleyan University. The finish was Guillaume’s second All-NCAC honor, finishing ninth at the 2014 conference championship.
The women had four athletes earn All-NCAC honors. Guillaume was followed by Monica Patrick, ’17, Brindle, and Ariel Rittenhouse, ’18, who placed seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.
On the men’s side, Steiner finished second overall and earned his fourth First Team All-NCAC honor.
The men had five athletes earn all-conference runners. Steiner was followed by Dan Cheung, ’17, at fourth, Luke Regan, ’18, at seventh, John Hughes, ’18, at 13th, and Randy Violette, ’17, at 16th.
“Biggest challenge for the women was that they were ranked third going into the meet so we knew it was going to be a big challenge to upset the top two ranked teams, Oberlin and Ohio Wesleyan,” Hill said. “For the men, they were picked to finish first, so it was a challenge knowing that they were the favorites going in. They just needed to run their race and not think about the extra pressure that might have been associated with being picked first.”
Good trail conditions led to success for the Gators, according to Brindle.
“Trail conditions weren’t too bad. This was a course we had never run before, it was mostly mulch and grass. The only thing we didn’t like was that there were a lot of sharp turns,” Brindle said.
Steiner said the biggest part of the race was getting into the right mindset.
“Coming in freshman year, you have this mentality of time, you have so much time in the world. You spend time goofing around and just being there,” Steiner said. “Then sophomore and junior year, you realize that time is kind of running out. Then senior year here, it’s the last time you’re going to run as a team for conferences. With that mentality change, you have to accept it more than get worried about it. I went back to freshman roots and I’m glad to be here now and make the most of what I have, and had a lot more fun than I did my sophomore and junior year.”
Following the win, the teams waited for the announcement of who had won the title of NCAC champions. Former cross country coach and current Associate Director of Athletics and Recreation Services, Bill Ross, was in attendance of the championship meet.
“At the end of the race when we didn’t know who had won but we knew it was close and Bill Ross came over to [Hill] and whispered that the unofficial results were that we had won, and you could see it on her face. We were all excited, it was the moment that was awesome,” Brindle said.
Brindle continued that this year was different because winning the conference championship was a goal the team has been working toward for several years and finally achieved.
“We were such a cohesive team this year, and even though we only had 12 [women], every[one] was completely into it and we focused. There were no factors against us,” Brindle said.
The Gators will travel to Terre Haute, Indiana to compete in the NCAA DIII Great Lakes Championship on Nov. 14, 2015.