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(Grand Rapids, Mich.) Two weeks after finishing three places behind Indiana Tech at the Great Lakes Challenge, the Cornerstone Women's Cross Country team successfully defended their 2012 Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference title.
The Golden Eagles, ranked 21st in the last NAIA poll, put two in the top three and got all five scoring runners in the top thirteen to upset the thirteenth-ranked Warriors 38 to 55. Aquinas was third with 64 points.
It's been a toss-up between Cornerstone, Tech and Aquinas since the second week of September as the three teams met four times during the season with never more than a few points and a few seconds of team time separating them. "Tech broke away at Great Lakes and going into the WHAC meet, they looked to have the best shot at winning," said Coach Rod Wortley. "We needed to find a way to break up their tight 1-3 group and get our fifth inside their number four. Finishing close to them in 20-30 team meets is a lot different than beating them at the conference meet with just three good teams."
With cool but very windy conditions at Riverside Park, Julie Oosterhouse and Jill Louisignau put themselves at the front in the opening mile. Tech's Laura Condron played the rabbit taking a 30 meter lead as the course crossed the driveway and continued for 800 meters into a 15-20 mile per hour headwind. Trinity Hulst, Cathy Coryell and Audrey Tremaine targeted Tech's number four runner positioning Cornerstone perfectly. "We wanted to be matched up before the headwind," said Louisignau, "If we could do that and then get the wind to our backs we knew we could hold the lead from there."
The women executed the plan well and then left no doubt at the finish. Coming into view with 600 meter remaining, Condron still held a 20 meter lead, but Oosterhouse duplicated her 2012 race, turning loose her All-American 800 meters speed to catch, pass and open a thirteen second gap, winning her second WHAC Cross Country title in 18:30. Louisignau battled Cherie Gaines from Tech and Catie Rietsema of Aquinas on the long straightaway to the finish. With less than 200 meters to go she powered her way into third and finished her WHAC career just one second behind Condron. "Jill doesn't have the greatest finishing kick, but we knew every place would count today and seniors seem to find a way to get the job done," said Wortley.
From there as more white tops came into sight, the outcome became clear. Hulst's new personal best of 19:10 brought her to the line ninth while Coryell and Tremaine finished twelfth and thirteenth, both running 19:22. "Last year we won by one point and it seemed to take forever to announce the score," said Oosterhouse. "This time there wasn't any doubt." A quick tally of the top five, totaled 39 points. "We knew coming in that Tech could probably do no better than 40, so 39 was the magic number," said Wortley.
Freshman Brooke Owens did not make the travel team in October for the NAIA Preview meet in Kansas. A determined 19:33 PR made her CU's number six, earning a place on the Nationals team in two weeks. Leah Shepherd completed the top seven taking 21st in 19:44.
Oosterhouse, who finished the regular season undefeated against WHAC competition, was awarded conference Runner of the Year. Louisignau joined Julie earning All-WHAC honors. Jill was also named to the WHAC Champions of Character team. Conference Coach of the Year went to Wortley.