The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

UChicago Women’s Cross Country Holds First-Place National Ranking for Five Straight Weeks

After winning four of their five regular season meets, the top-ranked Maroons are looking to parlay their success into the school’s first cross country national title.
The+Maroons+in+a+huddle+before+the+Wheaton+Gil+Dodds+Invitational.
Cat Wimmer
The Maroons in a huddle before the Wheaton Gil Dodds Invitational.

The University of Chicago women’s cross country team is no stranger to national success. 

After last year’s second-place finish at the NCAA DIII Cross Country Championships, the team opened the season ranked second in the country by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) before jumping to the first overall spot on September 20.

But for fourth-year captain Cat Wimmer, her team being ranked as the best in the country for five weeks in a row isn’t at the forefront of her mind. 

“The ranking is a great indicator of the tremendous depth in our team and the hard work that we’ve been putting in, but what’s more important is the chemistry that we have and the feeling that we’re headed in the right direction,” she said. 

Wimmer, along with fellow fourth-year captains Maddie Kelly and Page Cassidy, spoke to The Maroon about their first-place ranking, how they achieved success this season, and what they think this team can accomplish. 

The Maroons have held the top spot in the USTFCCCA rankings for five straight weeks, and rounding out the top five in the most recent rankings are Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Wartburg College, Carleton College, and New York University. But despite their success and recognition on a national level, the Maroons are keeping their focus on performing to the best of their ability and competing as a team. 

“Even though we’ve been ranked number one so early on, we’re trying to remember that everything is up for grabs. Nothing is final, and we’re really using that mindset going into the conference meet and regional meet,” Kelly said.

That doesn’t mean the Maroons don’t expect great things from themselves; the team has finished in the top six at the last three NCAA Division III Championships. Their conference success speaks for itself as well—they haven’t finished below second in the University Athletic Association (UAA) since their third-place finish in 2015.

“Obviously, we would prefer to win.” Cassidy said about the team’s aspirations regarding this year’s national championship meet. “But I think we’ve all kind of decided that at the end of the day, if we ourselves know that we did everything we possibly could to win the race, we’re not gonna be disappointed. If we’ve done everything we can, we can walk away with victory even if it didn’t result in an actual national title.”

The team has taken first place in four of their five regular season meets this year, the lone exception being the Joe Piane Invitational in South Bend, Indiana. Kelly said that this group’s team mindset is part of what has propelled them to the level of success they’ve reached this season.

“People really underestimate the team aspect of cross country. What you don’t know is the feeling of when you’re in a race and the only thing that’s pushing you forward is your teammate that’s running next to you… We know that if we go into the national meet as a group of individuals versus as a team, it’s going to be a completely different race,” she said. 

Wimmer mentioned the Maroons’ performance at the Wheaton Gil Dodds Invitational, their second competition of the year, as one of this season’s highlights. Kelly, Battleson-Gunkel, Tedesco, Jorgensen, and Camic finished first through fifth at the meet, a perfect cross country sweep that kept ninth-ranked conference rival Washington University in St. Louis off of the podium.

“Everyone was really stoked after that,” she said. “We’d been training super hard over the summer, and we weren’t set back at all by missing first place at nationals by a few points.”

The team’s most recent competition was the Augustana Invitational in Rock Island, IL on October 14, a six-kilometer race where the Maroons finished first out of a field of over forty teams. They finished with a team score of 48, giving them a sizable margin of victory over second-place Wartburg College (68). 

Fourth-year Evelyn Battleson-Gunkel placed first in the race of 395 runners, with a time of 21:24.7. The rest of UChicago’s scoring runners were Kelly (7th, 21:48.3), third-year Sophie Tedesco (11th, 21:53.3), third-year Elisabeth Camic (14th, 21:59.9), and graduate student Caitlin Jorgensen (15th, 22:03.1). Emma Kelly (29th, 22:44.5), and Estelle Snider (97th, 23:48.2) rounded out the Maroons’ seven varsity runners. 

“We were psyched to get some great competition from the #2 team in the nation and even more so to come out on top again,” Wimmer said about the Augustana Invitational result. “As we look towards championship season, we hope to keep this momentum up as we face some more tough competition from NYU and WashU at [the] conference [championship].”

The Maroons will look to repeat as conference champions for the first time since 2012-13 at the UAA Championship meet on October 28. The conference championship will be followed by the NCAA Midwest Regional meet in Waverly, Iowa on November 11, hosted by fellow national title contender Wartburg College. 

The NCAA DIII Cross Country Championships will be held on November 18 in Newville, Pennsylvania.

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About the Contributor
Austin Zeglis, Senior News Reporter, Senior Sports Reporter
Austin is a member of the class of 2024 who hails from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He studies economics and music in the College and contributes to the Sports and News sections of The Maroon.
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