Tide finishes seventh in regionals

Tide+finishes+seventh+in+regionals

UA Athletics

Junior Leigh Gilmore runs at the Crimson Classic earlier this season. The Alabama women’s cross country team finished its season with a seveth-place finish at regionals this past weekend. UA Athletics | Amelia J. Brackin

Marilyn Vaughn

The Alabama women’s cross country team can call this past weekend’s NCAA Regional meet a success for two reasons.

Firstly, the Crimson Tide came into the tournament ranked 10th in the region, but finished 7th out of 25 teams. Secondly, the team did so without one of its top runners, junior Kelsey Johnson, who finished first on the team at the previous meet, the Southeastern Conference Championships.

“We didn’t find out until 10:30 p.m. Friday night that [Johnson] wasn’t going to be with us to compete,” said head coach Randy Hasenbank. “I think they all felt a responsibility to step up and really perform well.”

Sidelined by this abrupt change in plans, the Tide ran the other six women from the allotted seven eligible to compete, opting not to replace Kelsey on such short notice. Of the six who ran, only five were eligible to score for the team. Four of the five runners who scored for team did so while running career-best times.

“It was probably our best collective performance of the year,” Hasenbank said. “Of course, unfortunately, without Kelsey in the lineup. They did a tremendous job holding on to 7th place. We were ranked 10th going into this thing, and when I started the year with this team, I felt like we were a top-five team in the region for sure.”

The women competed in a field of 185 runners. Junior Andrea Torske was the first to cross the line for the Tide in 32nd place with a career-high time of 21.00.73. This was a personal best of nearly a minute for Torske at the six-kilometer distance. Torkse’s finish put her just one minute and eight seconds behind the first place runner, Kristie Krueger, from the University of Georgia, who ran 19:52.

“The potential for this course to run fast existed,” Hasenbank said. “It was a flat course; it was dry, and it was great competition. All of those factors pretty much ensured a person could run fast. It’s typically 10, 20 or 30 seconds from time to time, but that was a pretty significant improvement by Torske.”

Senior Haley Moody said, “We didn’t exactly know how fast it was going to run, but I think everyone was pleasantly surprised. I think everyone ran PR’s or season bests.”

Last weekend’s race was the final competition for the women this season. Only the top two finishing teams at the regionals meet advanced to the NCAA National Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., later in the month. In addition to this, the top five individual runners not on a qualifying team advanced.

For seniors, this was their last cross country race in their careers. Senior Haley Moody offered advice to the underclassmen teammates.

“Just keep improving,” Moody said. “Andrea and Leigh have definitely improved from last year. If everyone can keep improving like that, then the team can be really great next year.

Moody is among four seniors who the team will lose after this season. She said she is sad to leave the lineup but confident her team will continue to perform well.

“The four of us [seniors] are leaving, but it’s nice to know the team is not going to crumble when we leave,” Moody said. “The team is going to be great. I’m sure the freshmen will step up as well.”

Hasenbank said, “We’ll certainly miss them, but there is absolutely no doubt that this team can be much better as we get older.”