Cross-Country traverses obstacles on way to finish line

Cross-country is often overlooked.

But when baseball games are canceled because of rain and sometimes football games are delayed when there’s lightning, cross country is still running.

Saturday, Oct. 31, the Mercyhurst College men’s and women’s cross-country teams competed in 6K and 8K races at Edinboro University in their conference championships.

While most all sports are played on a field, court, or rink, cross-country races are run on courses spread out over a large area, with hills, rocks, dirt and even water sometimes. There is no Zamboni cleaning the ice, no one to paint boundary or yard lines and no one to wipe the floor if sweat or water makes its way there. It’s every person for hir or her self.

Saturday’s course was no exception. While some sports are actually kind of fun to play in the rain, getting muddy and sliding on the grass, imagine competing in a race in ankle-deep rain water up and down hills. Week after week the team encounters courses of various terrain, and this Halloween Saturday offered a swamp.

Even among the difficult conditions, the team has continued to decrease its time with each race.

“Regardless of the conditions and the elements, as a team we keep improving,” said senior Amanda Ehrbar.

While the regular season is coming to an end, the Lakers have accomplished much. Their goals of consistency have been achieved, and as a whole the team has kept “digging deep and hanging tough,” said coach Mike Fraley.

“We might be a small team, but we’re solid,” Ehrbar commented.

The Lakers have faced some pretty difficult competition. The PSAC is one of the most competitive D-III conferences in the nation.

Next week the Lakers face their last race at Mansfield University, which will determine if any individuals will move to the Cross-Country National Competition.

Senior Christie Turak has a good chance to be the first Laker to progress to the national competition. This Saturday will determine the top two teams and the top five individuals in the PSAC who will compete in the NCAA.

“Some don’t understand that runners are in some sort of pain the entire race. You endure it for the moment when you cross the finish line and know you have accomplished something special,” Ehrbar said with an infectious grin, her love for running apparent.