The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Women runners place fifth at nationals

    The UW-Eau Claire women’s cross country team rolled to a fifth-place finish nationally this weekend to claim one of the best season finales in program history.

    The men’s team sent junior Chris Wirtz to this year’s national championship, giving the men their first championship appearance in eight years and securing spots for both the men’s and the women’s teams in this year’s championship roster.


    The women’s team rallied behind lead runner senior Mary Palmer in this year’s race to claim its sixth-ever fifth-or-better finish at the national championship.

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    Palmer, a senior, registered an average 5:47.3-mile pace en route to a 26th-place finish overall in the six-kilometer run. She finished the race with an overall time of 21:34.82.

    “She was our top runner all season,” second-year coach Dan Schwamberger said of Palmer. “She had a great year, and I was really happy to see her finish on that note.”

    Sophomore Beth Easker and freshman Alyssa Sybilrud weren’t far behind, with both finishing in the meet’s top 100. Easker
    finished 55th overall at 22:04.73, and Sybilrud registered a 99th-place finish at 22:29.22.

    Juniors Hannah Humbach and Jenna Smith, senior Ellie Lutz and sophomore Molly Woodford rounded out the team’s last four spots. Humbach claimed a 145th-place finish at 22:51.60, Smith finished 147th at 22:52.84, Lutz took 251st at 23:58.70 and Woodford claimed 275th at 24:49.02.

    “I was really happy with the way the team ran despite some of the smaller injuries we had,” said Schwamberger, adding he was impressed by the improvement he saw on the women’s team this year.

    The women have now been to the national championship 19 times since the 1978-79 season.


    Junior Chris Wirtz represented Eau Claire in the men’s heat, registering a 166th-place finish at 25:59.24 in the eight-kilometer run.

    Schwamberger said he thinks the nationals experience will help Wirtz during the upcoming track season, and that he expects him to be able to return and do even better next fall.

    Wirtz’s appearance at the meet ended an eight-year national championship drought for the men’s team, which has neither appeared as a team nor sent an individual runner to the national title since the 1999-2000 season.

    The Blugolds have now appeared in the championship meet 21 times since the 1977-78 season, with its best performances coming in 1985 and 1989, when the team finished fourth nationally.

    The team also recorded its best conference finish since 2001 this season, claiming fourth in the WIAC after placing fifth or worse for the last six years.

    “Our men just had a breakthrough year,” Schwamberger said, adding the team missed running as a team at nationals by one spot.

    Schwamberger said he saw improvements on both teams this year and is excited for track season in the spring and for the cross country season next fall.

    “It was a very good year, and both teams improved from last year,” he said. “And I guess as a coach that’s kind of what I’m looking at.”

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    Women runners place fifth at nationals