Cross Country | Sunday, November 24, 2013
Freeby and Bennett Discuss their Success at NCAA Championships
Runners Thank Coaches for Helping them Achieve All-America Honors
HANOVER, IND. -- It was a great day for Willamette University runners Michaela Freeby (Jr., Milwaukie, OR/Milwaukie HS) and Parker Bennett (Sr., Sisters, OR/Sisters HS) on Saturday, Nov. 24 at the 2013 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. Both runners earned All-America honors, as Freeby took eighth place in the women's race and Bennett was 32nd in the men's race.
The top 35 finishers in each race received All-America status.
Freeby achieved a time of 21:29.7 over the women's 6-kilometer course at the L.S. Ayers Athletic Complex. She helped the Bearcats place 12th in the women's team standings. Freeby, who took first place at the NCAA West Regional, was named the West Region Women's Athlete of the Year last week.
Bennett completed the men's 8-kilometer race in 25:20.3. He was competing as an individual after earning bid to the championships a week ago when he placed second at the NCAA West Regional.
Freeby and Bennett faced different challenges in their races on Saturday, but both attained quality results.
In the women's race, Freeby ran with the lead group for most of the competition. She was able to stay with the top runners throughout the race and went on to achieve her top finish in three trips to the NCAA Championships.
"It was really exciting," Freeby said. "I'm really happy about it."
Even in the lead pack of runners, Freeby had to concentrate to maintain her position in the race.
"I just tried to stay really focused," she said. "I just wanted to do my best."
According to Freeby, she owed much of her success to Willamette's coaches, including Head Coach Matt McGuirk.
"I just can't thank my coaches enough," Freeby said. "Everything the coaches tell me is always right. It's just apparent how much they care about us and care about the team."
Freeby was thrilled that Willamette placed 12th in the team standings.
"Our whole mentality this season has changed," Freeby commented. "We are always talking about running for each other. And everyone is really excited because we will have the same starters next season. Everyone is so dedicated."
Joining Freeby in the women's race were were Taylor Ostrander (So., Soldotna, AK/Kenai Central HS), Olivia Mancl (Fr., Seattle, WA/Roosevelt HS), Juliet Farnan (So., Lafayette, CA/Campolindo HS), Annette Marinello (Jr., Corvallis, OR/Philomath HS), Hannah Bressler (So., Oak Harbor, WA/Oak Harbor HS) and Iris Dowd (Fr., Portland, OR/St. Mary's Academy).
In the men's race, the lead group went out at a very fast pace and Bennett found himself in about 150th place after the first mile.
"It was a rough race from the beginning because the front pack went out so fast," Bennett commented. "There was a lot of shoving and pushing in the first mile. The first mile was very demoralizing."
Bennett overcame the difficulties early in the race and gradually moved up until he was in a position to become an All-America selection. It was an impressive performance.
"I just slowly took people off (passed them) throughout the race," he said.
Like Freeby, Bennett thanked his coaches.
"I want to say how thankful I am to my coaches," Bennett said. "After the first mile, I was anxious, but coach said 'Keep calm and stay patient.' I wanted to make sure that I didn't get passed and that I gradually moved up."
After he finished the race, Bennett said that "I did my minute of pure exhaustion, and then I ran up to my team and my coaches. I had a big smile on my face."
Yes, it was a great day for Freeby and Bennett ... and also for their teammates and their coaches.