Competing at the national level is no easy task, especially for a team that was ranked 11th in its region and on the cusp of not qualifying. However, the UNH women’s cross-country team strung together a terrific performance, capped off by junior Elinor Purrier’s fifth-place finish at the Pre-National Invitational at Indiana State University on Saturday.
Finishing 29th out of 41 teams, the ‘Cats racked up 720 points in the race compiled of 285 runners. In order to qualify for pre-nationals, a team must be ranked top-11 in its respective region. With the Wildcats just squeaking into this race, they certainly had nothing to lose as the team capitalized on the opportunity to gain experience in a race that had a large feel to it.
Purrier did not disappoint, finishing the 6-kilometer course in 20-minutes, 15.4-seconds and finishing strong in what was just her second race of the season. After a red-shirt cross country season last year, this was her first time running in a large cross country race in nearly two years.
“I’m happy with the way [Purrier] raced and she certainly had a very good day,” head coach Robert Hoppler said. “Runners have a tendency to gain fitness through racing so she’ll have training effects through this race and this race will make her better as the year goes on.”
Purrier still looks plenty fresh in what Hoppler calls “really the beginning of her season.” She won’t race again for another two weeks until the conference meet where the ‘Cats will look to defend their title, so the team needs to be at their best.
Senior captain Sarah Keiran was the next finisher for UNH in this race, placing 153rd with a time of 21:51.9. Much like in recent meets this season, freshman Melissa Menghini was close behind in 163rd with a time of 21:54.5, and fellow freshman Meg Champagne in 192nd with a tiue of 22:08.9.
“[Keiran has] been doing a really good job being our leader. The two freshmen have really been basing their races off of [Keiran]. She’s the one who kind of takes the pace out and they are running together as a group and the responsibility is on [Keiran] and she’s doing a really good job of being a senior captain,” Hoppler said. “I’m really optimistic about her races going forward.”
Looking forward to next week, many of the varsity runners will get a rest while the remainder of the team hopes to build momentum during the Central Connecticut State University mini-meet on Friday, Oct. 21. Despite some of the top runners not competing, it will be an important race to get momentum heading into the conference championships.
“In the conference meet you can run 10 [athletes], so it’s really important to get the rest of the team rolling and running well going into the conference meet because there’s people in that group not on this trip that I guarantee will make a difference and be important to this team on the conference level,” Hoppler said.
While the men had the week off, both teams will race next Friday, Oct. 21 at the CCSU mini-meet. The conference championships will take place the weekend after on Oct. 29 in Baltimore.