Cross Country laces up for PAC Championship


Ed Mailliard

Caleb Freeman, ’25, running at the Conneticut College Invite. Freeman finished in 5th overall with a time of 26:29:4, and was the second Gator to cross the finish line.

Allegheny’s men and women’s cross country are headed to the Presidents’ Athletic Conference Championship on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. The women will compete in a 6,000-meter race beginning at 11 a.m., preceding the men’s 8,000-meter race an hour later.
“We’re just ready to come in and show them who Allegheny is,” said Sean Heintzleman, ’24.
Both teams look to the weekend with excitement after performing well this fall.
The men are coming off a runner’s high, placing first out of 15 competing schools in the Connecticut College Invite on Oct. 15. Juxtapositionally, the women’s team placed 11th out of 22 schools.
Two weeks, prior both teams hit the road to compete in the State University of New York Geneseo Mike Woods Invitational on Oct. 1, where the women finished fifth of 20 teams, and the men finished 16th of 24 teams.
Both of these events included multiple nationally ranked opponents and brought some of the best talent in the country to two out of state events for the Gators.
“It definitely humbles you,” Nelly Stafford, ’25, said. “Seeing all these fantastic girls and great competition, it really puts into perspective why we’re all here and makes you work extra hard.”
The season began at the Westminster Fisher Invitational on Sept. 2, where the women opened with a first place finish en route to dominating four other schools by the clock. The men finished in fifth place out of six schools, but followed with a podium placement in the Allegheny Classic on Sept. 17, taking home second place out of eight schools. The women complimented the men during the Classic with a second place finish of their own, competing against six other schools.
Heintzleman has been a strong producer during his tenure at the college, earning First-Team All-North Coast Athletic Conference honors last year. This year has been no different. During the team’s first- and second-place finishes this season, he was atop of the results list — placing second overall during the Connecticut Invite and fourth overall for the Allegheny Classic.
His podium performance earned him PAC Runner of the Week, while also being the first Gator to cross the finish line. Heintzleman stated he would love a first place finish for himself this weekend, but earning the team win is where it counts the most.
“Our training is specifically designed to peak for the conference meet,” Heintzleman said. “I don’t think a win is out of our realm whatsoever.”
Both teams for Allegheny have put in an astronomical amount of hours to prepare for this event. The Gators have implemented a rigorous training regimen that is designed for runners to keep their endurance up, while foregoing the “burn out” some athletes feel throughout a long season.
What separates Allegheny from other schools around the conference is their mileage running. It is exactly as it sounds: running for miles on end to train the team’s mental approach to their events — including the toughness to get through a long race.
The Gators do not race as much as other schools in the fall and they do not start their interval training until later in the season. All of this is to maximize their potential for this weekend, taking a “build up” approach to save all their strength for the event that matters most to them.
“You can get good really quickly,” Heintzleman said. “But racing too much, our training is designed so that we don’t burn out and that we’re ready for the end of the season.”
Heintzleman is not the only runner who has bought into the congregation that bleeds blue and gold. Caleb Freeman, ’26, has also been a consistent product for the Gators throughout his first year, most recently placing fifth in the Connecticut College Invite.
Freeman’s hard work was honored as he received Rookie of the Week with a PR time of 26:29:4. His dedication is shown through his commitment to the team and himself, as Freeman is moving through the week with confidence.
“I usually try to aim for 12 to 14 miles,” Freeman said while discussing his training. “It’s definitely a long day, but I think it comes into play getting through that race fast knowing that I’ve done longer runs and my body is ready for it.”
Stafford has also competed well for the Gators this year. She was the team’s best runner to compete in the first two events of the season, and emphasized pushing the team hard during workouts and on the course.
“We always push each other,” Stafford said. “It’s been such a positive environment.”
For the first time in 38 years, Allegheny will compete in the PAC Conference Championship once again after returning from the NCAC this summer. The Gators will look to impress the field, and finish well as their regional competitions for the Division III National Championship is just around the corner in Holland, Michigan on Nov. 12.