• Rachel Masson

Cross Country Championship preview

Head Coach Jennifer Johnson

By Rachel Masson

Sports Reporter

After being in quarantine for two weeks and severe weather for another two weeks, it didn’t seem like the Lady Bulldogs Cross Country team was going to participate in many races this season. However, after having a duel against Northwestern Oklahoma State University and the GAC Cross Country Championship coming up, things are turning around for the runners.

Since the runners couldn’t participate in a regular season meet that SWOSU hosted in January, the NWOSU cross country coach asked head coach Jennifer Johnson if the women’s cross country team would be interested in having a duel in Alva. This was an easy "yes" for the runners since they hadn’t competed yet.

“I was really impressed with some of our paces,” said Johnson about the results of the duel. “The way the girls ran, I think we definitely have the potential to have three sub-20 runners, sub-20 5K’s, which is pretty decent for our conference. Overall, I was pretty happy with the effort that was put out at Northwestern.”

With this duel being the first time the runners were able to compete against another school, the freshmen were able to gain experience on a different course other than the one they practice on. All freshmen, except for Giselle Zavaleta who was dealing with an injury, got to compete in their first collegiate duel.

“They held their own for sure,” Johnson said. “I didn’t really have any complaints. The freshmen, they’re going to be a really good attribute for the next three or four years.”

Due to the severe weather across Oklahoma for the past two weeks, East Central University cancelled the ECU Tiger Chase and the women’s cross country team was not able to participate in their first official race this season. The women’s team was also not able to run outside for those two weeks due to icy conditions.

“So, distance is a little bit more forgiving, you can kind of have a little bit more recovery without losing fitness for longer than the sprinters can,” Johnson said. “They were able to find ellipticals or treadmills or indoor tracks at various places around town. So, for the most part, they just did sixty-minute activities. Once they felt comfortable driving, we did a pool work out one day and then we were back running on the road on Friday.”

Although the runners, except for one, got to compete against Northwestern, the freshmen runners haven’t had the chance to compete against other schools in the GAC unlike the three returners on the team. Nevertheless, the ladies are ready to run.

“The fact that it’s conference is kind of a bummer, but I’m still just kind of stoked to see where we’re going to be as a team,” Johnson said. “Just going from here, we’re super, super young. We’re not losing anybody; our oldest two runners are juniors, so I’m just excited to see where we are right now as a team.”

Since the cross country season is ending, Johnson shared her thoughts on everything that has happened this season. From having a shortened season to only competing in a duel in preparation for the championship race, Johnson is still proud of her runners.

“I’m super impressed and proud of them as to how positive they are,” Johnson said. “There’s really been no whining, complaining. I mean, they’re doing a great job of just understanding this is the kind of world we live in right now, and that’s really helpful for me not to have to kind of take on, not only the role of the coach, but also team cheerleader. They do a good job of helping each other stay in uplifted spirits, so I'm really proud of the way they’ve handled this unfortunate season.”

The Lady Bulldogs Cross Country team competes in the GAC Championship on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 10:30 a.m. at the Weatherford Splash Pad.

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