By Brian Edsall
Every collegiate athletic season is special. Many seasons are memorable.
This year, the Marist women’s cross country team produced a season that was more than special, more than memorable. This season was historical.
This year’s 2017 women’s cross country team dominated major championship races, placing 2nd at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship, 11th at the NCAA Division 1 Northeast Region Championship and 4th at the ECAC/IC4A Division 1 Cross Country Championship.
The team’s 2nd place finish at the MAAC Championship was the highest since 2012, and their 11th place finish at the NCAA D1 Northeast Region Championship—with the team’s lead runner from the MAAC Championship injured and in brutally cold conditions—is the highest in program history, surpassing the 15th place finish of 1998.
For Head Coach Pete Colaizzo, this team was definitely one of the best ever— if not, the best ever.
“We always enter every season with high expectation in terms of preparation and effort,” said Colaizzo. “But I do think it's safe to say that this team met or exceeded expectations at almost every meet.”
More impressive than these historical finishes is the considerable improvement from the 2016 season, where the team finished 6th and 25th at the MAAC Championship and NCAA D1 Northeast Region Championship respectively.
“Finishing 6th last year at MAACs was heartbreaking…the place didn't reflect the hard work and talent that team had put in,” said senior captain Mara Schiffhauer. “All the hurt, all the ability we had to prove, and all the heart that propelled us in this year's race really showed with a 2nd place finish.”
Many impressive individual performances propelled the team to their historical finishes. The MAAC Championship saw three All-MAAC (top 15) performers and three All-MAAC Rookie runners. The NCAA D1 Northeast Region Championship witnessed five finishes in the top 100. Lastly, the team had four All-East (top 40) performances and seven sub-19:00 finishers at the ECAC/IC4A D1 Championship.
“The girls on this team invest so much of themselves toward the common goal and that takes a certain level of selfless commitment,” said Schiffhauer. “I've never seen a group of girls that are more unified in their purpose and tenacious in nature, and I'm honored to be a part of it.”
Colaizzo credits much of this success to the leadership of the captains and upperclassmen, as well as the strong guidance and training routines of Coach Chuck Williams and Assistant Coach Erica Maker.
Moreover, the freshman class was simply phenomenal, as they “went places no young runners have ever gone...[paving] the way for an extremely bright future,” according to Colaizzo.
Marist’s head coach thoroughly enjoyed the many memorable team and individual performances. However, the everyday process— the "steady drip of consistency”—is what Colaizzo truly relished.
The conclusion of cross country brings the beginning of track, where Schiffhauer believes the team will continue its success.
“The energy on this team is undeniable coming out of the cross country season—The sky really is the limit with this team,” she said.
Though another season has ended, the memories extend far beyond the finish line. For Schiffhauer, the friendships and bonds formed with teammates are what she cherishes most. “Every girl I have had the pleasure of toeing the line with on this team has taught me something about perseverance and compassion that I will forever be grateful to have.”