The NC State women’s cross country team placed 12 of the top 13 runners at the adidas XC Challenge, hosted by NC State, at the WakeMed Soccer Park XC Course.
Of the top 12 Pack runners, eight were uniformed and four competed as unattached, so only the uniformed runners counted to the team’s score and standings. Senior Elly Henes led the Pack field at 16:46.9, finishing 10 seconds ahead of freshman teammate Kelsey Chmiel (16:57), who finished in second place.
“That spread that we had, our 1-7, was so close,” Elly Henes said. “And that’s different from other years too. We had a pack together through the first hill and it was just so nice to have all the girls right there.”
Two unattached NC State runners finished in third and fourth in junior Julia Zachgo (17:03) and freshman Sam Bush (17:07), respectively.
“We really wanted to try to group up four or five people through at least halfway, which we did,” head coach Laurie Henes said. “Elly and Kelsey did a really good job progressing, running the second half faster. Julia Zachgo and Sam Bush were amazing, I thought they did a great job, especially starting conservatively.”
Henes is almost always the one leading the pack, entering the season as the team’s leading runner and most successful competitor, so it was no surprise to see her cross the finish line first in this event.
Chmiel and Bush are both true freshman, showing to the recruiting of the women’s cross country team and the ability to develop talent.
“We are very serious about development,” Laurie Henes said. “Certainly we are going to recruit the top kids in the country, and we’re doing that, but it’s very important to us to bring people in and help them get better as they go.”
The only non-NC State runner in the top 13 was South Carolina’s Heather Stone, who finished fifth. A pair of Pack freshman finished sixth and seventh in Mariah Howlett (17:15.1) and Rafaella Gibbons (17:15.8), respectively.
Redshirt senior Ryen Frazier and junior Isabel Zimmerman (unattached) rounded out the top 10. Sophomore Heather Holt, redshirt junior Anna Vess and sophomore Sarah Latour finished 11th, 12th and 13th, respectively.
“Overall, I think Mariah Howlett, it was her opening collegiate race and a huge [personal record],” Laurie Henes said. “And a lot of our upperclassman ran well, it was a very good starter for Ryen Frazier.”
Although it was only a 5K, a shorter-than-normal race, the NC State women’s team seems well-equipped to defend its ACC title and compete at the NCAA level.
The cross country team will be back on the start line at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Indiana on Friday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m.