With a new season ahead of them, the members of the women’s Cross Country team have been preparing themselves. According to returning senior Michelle Wallace, camraderie is just as important as physical preparation.
“I want us to be closer and I think we’re becoming a much closer pack … We are working on being able to work together … team work plays a huge role in the program’s success. If we’re not able to work together then we have nothing,” she said.
Wallace, one of two team captains, will be depended upon to carry the load and perform at a high level, according to head coach Phil Jennings.
“Michelle is someone who has improved a great deal over four years and it’s important to have someone to look toward as the front runner,” he said.
In last year’s New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championships, in the individual 6K race that saw six Lions’ runners finish in the top 10, Wallace took home an impressive fourth place finish with an official time of 23:01.75. Her performance helped push the Lions into the Division III Atlantic Regional tournament and eventually earn an at-large birth in the NCAA Championship tournament.
The captain also specializes in the 3,000 meter steeple chase, a race that involves Wallace circling a standard running track seven times while clearing four, 30 inch tall barriers, one of which has a pit of water strategically placed on the other side. Each runner must clear 28 barriers and make seven water landings in a single race. The NJAC holds this race at its championship event every year, and Wallace has taken home the gold the past two seasons.
“Our captains lead by example. That’s why they’re in the position they are,” Jennings said.
Wallace’s team-first attitude, talent for the sport, and ability to help mold a strong team-oriented atmosphere around the Women’s Cross Country team will serve her teammates well when the season begins.