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(Vancouver, Wash.) The Cornerstone University Women's Cross Country team ended their remarkable season at the NAIA National Championships, establishing themselves as a top fifteen team. Sophomore, Julie Oosterhouse's All-America honors highlighted the day.
The trip to the Pacific Northwest began well with ideal weather up until race day. Friday night rain drenched the course and Saturday morning brought a passing shower an hour before the starting gun. After the warm up the Golden Eagles switched to half inch spikes, knowing the tight corners on the two kilometer loop would be muddy and slick.
As the race got underway, Oosterhouse was carried along around 60th place in the first kilometer, "After running here last year, I knew what to expect and how to attack the course. It was difficult though without Jill to get me out at the right pace." CU's co-captain, Jill Louisignau contracted a nasty case of food poisoning Thursday night. Her ability to race was in question until Saturday morning. "She did the warm up and even though she wasn't close to 100%, she wanted to try and run," said coach Rod Wortley. "We adjusted the race plan to give her a better chance of getting through it because she was still pretty drained from the last 36 hours."
Senior, Julia Contreras became the point women for the 2-6 group as the team worked to stay close. Late in the first mile, junior, Mindy Lewis was pinned on a tight corner, getting her right foot stepped on and twisted. Contreras, CallyAnne Wyma and Louisignau saw her stumble, "They all turned and looked back," said Lewis, "but there was nothing I could do to go with them. Within 200 meters, the injury forced Lewis to step off the course.
Midway through the second mile, Oosterhouse learned she was close to the top 30. "My goal was to be top 30 and I thought I would be on the bubble. I wasn't sure if I could do it. When I heard I was 32nd, it was at the hardest part of the race. I was ready to talk myself out of it. I thought, ‘God, I need you to do something.'" Encouraged, knowing she was close, Julie continued moving through the field. Her usual outstanding finishing kick gained another half dozen places putting her 16th at the finish in 18:20. Oosterhouse was surprised with both her place and time, running just seven seconds off her best time on the hardest course and worst conditions of the season.
Behind her, Contreras was pulling ahead of her teammates as she closed out her collegiate career. Her time of 19:42 was good for 126th place. Wyma (153rd / 19:55), Louisignau (168th / 20:00) and Audrey Tremaine (172nd / 20:03) followed within 21 seconds. "It went by fast, even though the times were slow. For my last race senior year, I went out and enjoyed it." Contreras said. "I'm proud to be part of the first CU women's team to make it to Cross Country Nationals and there's nobody I'd rather step to the line with in this race than these girls."
The University of British Columbia won the team title with 98 points, ahead of the College of Idaho with 112. Cornerstone claimed 15th, scoring 437 points in the 32 team field.
"With all that happened this week, I'll take it," said Contreras. "The work isn't finished. We'll be back next year and better than 15th. I'm envious that I don't get to do it again."