On Saturday, Oct. 30, the Wooster men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to the Clark County Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ohio to compete in the NCAC Conference Championship. It was all in all a solid day for the Scots, as the women finished in third place out of eight teams while the men placed seventh out of nine teams.
The Wooster women’s cross country team impressed with their third place finish, as it was their best showing in the NCAC Conference meet since 1998. Before the meet, Wooster’s runners believed in themselves. As Captain Kayla Bertholf ’22 put it, “we knew going into this race that we wanted to show our improvement as a team, but we also knew that it was going to be difficult and would take a strong effort out of everyone.” Not only did the runners believe, but so did Coach Dennis Rice, who, according to Captain Rachel Osterhouse ’22, “gave us a great pep talk beforehand, and really stressed how great our team is this year.”
The Scots fortified their confidence with spectacular individual performances. Athena Tharenos ’24 led the way, finishing sixth overall, good enough for first-team all-conference with a time of 23:38.1. Teammate Isabelle Hoover ’22 was right behind Tharenos, also finishing first-team all-conference and placing seventh overall with a time of 23:41.1. Tharenos and Hoover were followed by Bertholf (17th place, 24:19.9, all-conference), Dylan Kretchmar ’25 (25th place, 24:38.4), Jessica Breth ’25 (49th place, 26:14.6), Osterhouse (51st place, 26:19.8), Elise Greenwald ’25 (65th place, 27:24.2), all of whom scored in the meet. Wooster got significant contributions from their young core of three first-years — Kretchmar, Breth and Greenwald, and sophomore Tharenos. Bertholf was extremely impressed with the young guns’ poise in the meet, saying that, “it was a lot of the team’s first time at a championship cross country race and they handled the nerves very well!”
Despite being unable to garner the same level of success as the women, the men’s team performance showed that the future is bright for them. Will Callender ’25, who has been the Scots’ ace runner in every meet of the season, wanted to make a statement at the conference championship. “I had the goal of getting all-conference in mind. Based off season records I was projected to get exactly 21st, which is the last all conference spot, so I knew I needed to work hard. Having that goal in mind of where I needed to place rather than what time I got really helped push me.” Perhaps unsurprisingly given Callender’s performances this year, he did not disappoint, finishing in ninth place overall — well above the 21st place needed for all-conference — with a time of 26:50.9.
Wooster’s second runner, Ben Nichols ’25, also impressed, as he finished in 42nd place overall and in 27:58.7. Duncan Hardy ’24 finished third for the Scots and 47th overall with a time of 28:05.4; Drew Robertson ’25 followed, placing 49th overall with his time of 28:06.3; Alexander DeLong ’22, finished with a time of 28:29.9, good enough for 57th place in his final NCAC Conference meet; Eric Johnson ’25 clocked in 28:33.3 to get 59th place; Mitchell Ecklund ’24 was the last Scot to score, finishing in 83rd place with a time of 29:38.1. These results clearly show the potential of the Scots to compete in cross country for years to come, as they have an extraordinarily young team. Callender said as much, as he came away from the meet thinking that “the team did super well considering how young we are as a whole, and I’m super proud of that.”
The next championship meet for Wooster cross country is the Great Lakes Regional meet, which will take place on Saturday, Nov. 13 at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana. The women in particular are chomping at the bit in anticipation of this meet because, as Osterhouse points out, “according to Coach [Dennis Rice], we have a strong shot at nationals this year, which is incredibly exciting for us. At the regional meet, the Scots will have a chance to punch their tickets for the national NCAA Division III Championship meet at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Kentucky on Nov. 20.
The next meet for the Scots is the Great Lakes Regional Championship meet on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 11:00 a.m. at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana. Make sure to wish good luck to the runners from both teams!