RICHMOND, Va. – Director of Virginia Commonwealth University's women's cross country squad and Assistant Track & Field coach Ethan Tussing knew that the Colonial Athletic Association Championships would not be an easy task.
First, the team's top runner, freshman Ariana Jones (Sterling, Va.) had to sit out due to an injury that she sustained earlier this season. Second, five of the eight runners for the Rams were freshmen, the other three, just sophomores. Third, it was the first six-kilometer race of the year for the Black & Gold due to the cancellation of the Penn State Classic two weeks ago.
The Rams competed their hearts out but finished ninth at the Saturday's championships. William & Mary won their seventh straight conference title, followed by James Madison, George Mason, Delaware, Towson, UNC Wilmington, Northeastern and Georgia State.
"It's been our goal as a team to move up at least one spot in the conference each year," Tussing said. "It's disappointing that we missed our goal this year, but we did everything we could today on a challenging, windy course, especially considering we had the odds stacked against us."
Sophomores Heather DelaCruz (Williamsburg, Va.) and Nicole Walters (Orange, Va.) led the way for the Black & Gold, each posting personal bests by over 30 seconds. DelaCruz finished 40th with a time of 23:13.82, 32 seconds better than her previous best six-kilometer time. Walters topped her previous six-kilometer best by 30 seconds with a time of 23:58, good for 52nd.
"Both Heather and Nicole really showed the trend we're looking to continue, really stepping up and maturing in the second go around at the CAA Championships," Tussing added.
"It's really hard to be disappointed with the way our ladies competed," Tussing said. "We averaged more than 30 seconds better as a team than we did last year. We really had a strong day, but in the end we just got beat by some better teams."
Freshmen Shannon Brady (Sterling, Va.), Hannah Leffew (Virginia Beach, Va.) and Sarah Earman (Nokesville, Va.) rounded out the Rams' scorers, finishing 53rd, 56th and 64th respectively.
"I'm just really excited about the direction we're headed in as a program," Tussing said.
1) William & Mary 33
2) James Madison 40
3) George Mason 126
4) Delaware 127
5) Towson 139
6) UNC Wilmington 147
7) Northeastern 154
8) Georgia State 188
9) VCU 265
10) Hofstra 295