WILMINGTON, Ohio – Throughout the months of July and August, the Wilmington College Office of Athletic Communications, through the lens of Director Mitch Blankespoor, is going to revisit some of its favorite memories of each sport throughout the 2019-20 academic year.
Today's entry will be memories for the men's & women's cross country season. Click below to view past entries.
I'll remember this cross country season fondly as Wilmington was home for nearly half (three) of its events. As someone who has just begun to run, I have the upmost respect for the sport of cross country. The times I see cross the finish line are just astounding.
The first home meet was the Quaker Open – a 2-mile race for the women and 5-kilometer race for the men. Both teams earned runner-up finishes with the women competing against four other squads and the men six.
Three individuals finished in the top 10 for the women including two freshman and one sophomore (the future is bright!). Milena Wahl took home third place with a time of 12:45.5 while Katie Hughes crossed the finish line in 12:53.8. Sydney Yontz, in her first collegiate race, finished two spots and approximately two seconds behind Hughes.
For the men, the Quakers' top two runners in the event – freshman Simon Heys and sophomore Evan Whitaker – would both finish in the top five and set the course for the pair to be Wilmington's top two runners on the season. Heys, a graduate of Wilmington High School, earned a runner-up finish with a time of 16:05.9, less than 10 seconds behind the winner from Marietta College. Whitaker, the reigning Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) Freshman of the Year, crossed the finish line in 16:16.1.
The second home meet, and probably my favorite cross country meet I've worked in my near-decade career in athletics, was the JennaStrong Fall Classic on Oct. 11.
Two things about this meet that stuck out to me – the emotion of the meet and the vast competition it attracts. The mix of emotions is fascinating as both celebration and sorrow surrounding Jenna Parlette's life and death exist concurrently.
For the women, Wilmington nearly finished in the top third of the field, taking 13th place out of 33 squads.
This meet often attracts some higher-level NCAA Division I teams such as The Ohio State University, which won the meet. Looking at just the NCAA Division III teams in attendance, the Quakers finished fourth. Individually, Yontz and Wahl took 27th (19:25.9) and 31st (19:32.0) respectively on the 5-kilometer course.
For the men, the Quakers took fifth out of 36 teams, but as the top NCAA Division III squad in attendance. Similar to the women's race, Ohio State finished in the top spot Heys finished the 8-kilometer course in 20th place and a time of 26:03.7 while Whitaker finished six spots behind his teammate (27:41.8). The difference between this race and in previous years (WC was 19th place two years ago) was the depth. Taton Bertsch, Ryan Honkomp and Josh Cyrus all finished in the top 70.
The final home meet of the season was a dual – a week later against Muskingum University. The Quakers wiped the floor with the Muskies with the women taking 7-of-8 top spots and the men had 9-of-10 top spots. This set the stage for the OAC Championships two weeks later.
There, both Wilmington squads finished in sixth place, marking the best finish for both programs in at least five years.