Cross Country season ends with NCAA championship

The women’s team and the men’s Mason Shea competed

Thomas DeLapp

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The runners smile in the snow after races

Blugold cross country runners battled through snow and wind to compete in the NCAA DIII championships in Lansing, Michigan. this past Saturday.

After the women’s team received an at-large bid and Mason Shea from the men’s team received an individual bid, the group bundled up and traveled to Michigan in a snowstorm, which Katie Faris, runner and fifth year special education student described as “awesome,” even when they had to run in the weather.

“We rolled up to Michigan in just so much snow,” Faris said. “We had a positive mindset going in and even when we were running through the snow in 20mph winds, we kept that mindset, kept going. Put in the positive energy to finish strong.”

Coach Dan Schwamberger emphasized the “challenging but fun conditions,” and said it was a bit easier for the Blugolds, being a Wisconsin team, as opposed to the coastal and southern teams also competing. 

“There was probably four inches of snow on the ground, and the temperature for both races was in the single digits,” Schwamberger said. “Everything was white, there was just a ribbon of green where they plowed the course. It was actually incredible. I’ve never seen a national meet quite like that.” 

Shea placed 108th out of 292 runners, with an 8K time of 26:08. 

“Mason had just a fantastic race,” Schwamberger said. “Each region gets seven qualifiers, and he was the seventh qualifier at regionals, but he was the third of seven at nationals.”

On the women’s side, Schwamberger said he was quite pleased with their results. The team took 17th out of 32. 

The championship also signaled the end of the cross country season, which Faris, in her final season, said was tough. 

“It was all the little things in that day, seeing our family and friends after the meet, the shakeouts in the morning, all getting together and pumping each other up,” Faris said. “Doing our cheer and tearing up together. I got very emotional.”

Although not every Blugold was competing, Schwamberger said the community was still present at the championship.

“The majority of the (men’s) team that weren’t competing at nationals road tripped through the snowstorm to the meet on Saturday to watch, and that was just a good representation of what this year was like,” he said. “A great group to work with, positive attitudes throughout, and just fun.  This is my 16th year at Eau Claire and I can say by far this has been one of the most fun seasons.”

Faris, who graduates in December, said this final NCAA championship was a “great way to end” her career, despite finding it hard to leave. 

“Growing up with these ladies and watching them become amazing people is just awesome,” she said. “I just love my Eau Claire ladies. It’s all the little things we did. I’m so glad I joined. The amount of forever-long friendships I’ve made on this team, watching people grow, rise and gain confidence. This team is so special to me.”

DeLapp can be reached at [email protected]