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(Grand Rapids, Mich.) Two weeks after running their best meet of the season, the Cornerstone Women's Cross Country team returned to Riverside Park for the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Championship. Friday's wind had blown itself out and occasional breaks in the clouds took the edge off the chilly morning.
Just as they did at the Great Lakes Invite, the Golden Eagles got out aggressively in the opening mile, positioning themselves with their targets from the other teams. With Aquinas ranked 19th in the latest NAIA poll and Indiana Tech returning to their national qualifying form from 2008, Cornerstone entered the meet hoping to secure third.
"On paper we were within a couple points of Siena, so that was our focus," said coach Rod Wortley. "They have a strong frontrunner, but our pack is deeper and tighter than theirs."
By two miles, Louisignau was in a three-way battle for the last individual qualifying spot for the NAIA National meet. The freshman faced more experienced competition. Aside from Rachael Steil of Aquinas, Jill was the only other freshman in the top eighteen. Of the five yearlings in the top 21, three belonged to Cornerstone.
At the finish, Louisignau crossed the line eleventh, one spot away from Nationals, in 19:11, just four seconds off her PR.
Audry Yonge, who two weeks ago required hospitalization after her race, ran aggressively, placing 14th in 19:24 and improving 31 seconds from her previous best.
The rest of the Golden Eagle pack finished 18-19-20 within seven seconds of each other. They were led by freshman, Brianna Hansen whose 19:50 was her fourth PR in as many races. Senior Janelle Brown was just three seconds off her best in 19:52 and freshman Mindy Lewis completed the team scoring clocking 19:57.
As expected, Aquinas won with 25 points followed by Indiana Tech with 62. The Saints from Siena who have been without long time coach, Don Kleinow, as he has been battling health problems most of the season, tallied 81 points. Cornerstone claimed fourth with 82. "Our women ran hard and raced well," said Wortley, "but Siena ran inspired and some days you can't beat that. We wish Don all the best and hope to see him soon during Indoor Track season."
While the Cornerstone women were not satisfied with fourth, Wortley was pleased with the young team. "We lost five seniors after last season and with five freshmen and five sophomores this should have been a rebuilding year. But these women chose to pursue ambitious goals that were well out of reach instead of being content to take a year to work their way up gradually. While fourth place is disappointing, they ran faster than last year's team the last two meets of the season which are the fifth and sixth fastest times in program history. I've been impressed with their poise and confidence all season and am extremely proud of how well they've done."