Women’s Cross Country Moments

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By: Brian Laubscher

Our next installment of remembering the past includes the top moments in women’s cross country.  Just as was the case for the men, this was a difficult list since I rarely witnessed these moments in person.  Regardless, they were exciting and without further ado, here they are:

The first moment happened before I arrived, probably in like 1996 or 1997.  However, the story is just too good not to tell.  The details have faded in my mind a little and I wish I could find the story somewhere, but I just can’t seem to locate it.  Anyway, I recall doing a story on a cross country runner named Lisa Brennan for the one of the 1998 football gameday programs.  At the time I liked to feature some seniors from fall sports in the program and I’m sure someone had told me the story and I decided to interview Lisa for all the details on how she came to be known as “Rambo”.  So the story goes that the team always had one day to do some fun type of training during the preseason and they decided to ambush each other in the wooded portions of the cross country course.  Many of them, including Brennan, used face paint to help camouflage themselves.  Well, some of them used face paint – Brennan used permanent marker.  So, when Brennan was walking to class with war paint on her face for the next several days, her classmates lovably dubbed her Rambo.  Simply classic.  If anyone reads this that knows the exact details, I’d love to hear or post the story again.

Lindsay Erickson

Lindsay Erickson

The 2004 team brought home W&L’s first ODAC Championship since 2000 as the Generals took first place at the conference championship meet on October 30, 2004.  This is when W&L began its current run of conference titles and the runner that sort of got things rolling in my opinion was first-year Lindsay Erickson.  Her talent was evident from the beginning as she placed second at the season-opening W&L Invitational and then finished first for the Generals in every meet in which she competed.  But winning the conference title as a rookie is a tough task.  Erickson pulled it off and helped lead W&L to the promised land once again.  She later finished third at the NCAA South/Southeast Region Championships and competed at the NCAA Division III Championship placing 84th overall.  Erickson was both the ODAC Rookie and Runner of the Year in 2004.

The next moment occurred one year later when another rookie, Jackie Burns, helped lead W&L to its second-straight conference title. Obviously it was W&L’s second-straight ODAC Rookie and Runner of the Year.  Burns dusted the field, finishing 21 seconds ahead of the second-place competitor, who happened to be Erickson. Another first-year, Becca Taylor, finished fourth overall to earn First Team All-ODAC honors.  Burns went on to place 11th at the regional.

Elizabeth Webb

Elizabeth Webb

The 2008 season was pretty much the pinnacle of W&L women’s cross country, at least since I’ve been here.  There’s little doubt that Josephine Schaeffer Covington was the best runner of all-time, but the 2008 team may just have been the best squad.  The team began the season with a near perfect race in taking home first place at the Virginia Wesleyan Invitational.  The perfect race is when one team takes each of the top five individual placings for 15 team points.  The Generals won the race with 18 team points, having taken spots 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6.  Senior Jessica Shaw was first, followed by senior Elizabeth Webb in second, junior Kat Telfeyan in fourth, Taylor in fifth and junior Dorothy Todd in sixth place.

Becca Taylor

Becca Taylor

Speaking of the 2008 season, the Generals went on to win the ODAC title and finish third at the NCAA South/Southeast Regional, narrowly missing a the program’s first team bid to nationals (top two teams advance).  Shaw won the ODAC Championship meet, with Webb, Taylor and Todd placing second, fourth and seventh respectively.  Shaw finished 11th and Webb was 14th at regionals and both qualified for Nationals, where Webb placed 115th and Shaw finished 156th.  There was so much talent on this team, and some great stories too.  Case in point, Shaw ran cross country for just one season, yet was the Generals’ best runner for nearly every meet.  She had begun her athletic career at W&L as a three-year member of the swimming team (an all-conference swimmer to boot) before joining the track & field team as a junior, earning All-America honors in the 5,000 meters. That success led to her trying out cross country and becoming the best in the conference.  There is also Webb and Taylor, who were almost mirror images of one another.  Both were outstanding in track & field and cross country and tremendous in the classroom.  They went head to head for nearly every scholar-athlete award.  In fact, we decided to nominate Taylor for the cross country scholar-athlete awards and Webb for the track & field scholar-athlete awards because there was no other way to choose between them.  Of course they won every time we put them up.  Webb was W&L’s valedictorian and Taylor was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship.  It will be tough to find another athlete that personifies what it means to be a Division III student-athlete more than those two.

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