Women claim back-to-back RSC title

Cross Country teams take accolades across the board Saturday

Written By Robert Berger, Sports Photo Editor

Lead by a first place finish from senior Anna Shields, the Pioneer women’s cross country team won the River State’s Conference Championship (RSC) meet for the second time in a row last weekend in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Freshman Alyssa Campbell helped her team achieve the victory with a second place finish and capped off the day on the podium receiving RSC Newcomer of the Year alongside head coach Kelly Parsley who was named RSC Women’s Coach of the Year.

The men’s team earned second place on the day with junior Xavier Stephens highlighting the race by placing second individually.

With the success of last weekend, the women’s team will compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Champion meet in two weeks. 

“It feels really amazing for our team, we had a breakthrough this season that I knew we could have,” Shields said. “Running like this means we can be a top ten team at nationals and we can get better and have really exciting results.”

Using the course to her advantage, Shields took off from the get-go taking an early lead, and maintained an average mile time of 5 minutes, 41 seconds throughout the race. She finished in 17 minutes, 42 seconds, setting a course record. 

“I just went out from the start because there were some rougher patches as far as the terrain and I kind of just wanted to pick my own path and be out on my own and go out hard for it,” Shields said.

For Shields, Saturday was her fifth event win of the season out of six races. This fall, Shields has earned four RSC Women’s Cross Country Runner of the week awards. In two weeks at the NAIA National Champion meet, Shields will run her final collegiate cross country race.  

“I’m going to be thinking ‘This might be your last cross country race’ because I’m going to continue with track and not cross country, but I’ll be thinking about it and try to make it special,” Shields said.

Campbell finished the women’s race 42 seconds after Shields in 18 minutes, 25 seconds. 

“It just felt amazing and I can’t even think of the word to describe how exactly it feels,” Campbell said.

Like Shields, Campbell felt comfort in the course because it felt like courses she raced on during her high school years. 

“Especially this course, it reminded me of some I ran in high school and the beginning of the season,” Campbell said. “Half of the course was soaking we so we were running through woods, terrain and gravel so it was a factor, but I felt at home which helped me the most.”

Campbell is looking forward to competing at the national level in two weeks, as well as next year, after her gratifying freshman year.

“This definitely set my expectations high for the teams for when I come back next year and the year after that, but it was great to see how we were able to accomplish something so special,” Campbell said. 

For Point Park, seniors Katie Guarnaccia, sophomore Alyssa Boyd and senior Kara Rohlf all finished in the top ten finishing sixth, ninth and tenth respectively.

“It’s been so wonderful having Katie back and I feel so happy and I know the team does to,” Shields said. “I know not everyone knew Katie before but for the seniors and juniors who do, it’s something really special seeing her.”

Freshman Reba Bartram placed 13th with a finish in 19 minutes, 35 seconds and rounded out the RSC all-conference honorees which were awarded to the top six placing Pioneers. 

For Stephens and the men’s team, this is the second year in a row they finished the conference meet as runner up. Stephens finished the 8,000 meter race in 26 minutes, 37 seconds, seventeen seconds shy of a first place finisher, Dan Nehavi. Stephens said Nehavi was his biggest threat from the beginning of the race. 

“He took an early lead so I just tried to stay with West Virginia Tech,” Stephens said. “I figured they would be our biggest competition so I just tried to stick around with a pack of those guys during the race.”

All season, Stephens has enjoyed flatter courses the team has competed on and Saturday was no exception. 

“It was a similar course to last year’s conference course but a little flatter,” Stephens said. “I loved it, there were some hills along it, but you could work them really nicely.”

Junior Bryan Gutierrez finished second for the team in 12th place after completing the course in 27 minutes, 11 seconds. Both Stephens and Gutierrez earned an all-conference honoree award. 

The men had four other runners place in the top 25 Saturday with those athletes being freshmen Doug Kostelansky, Camden Seybert, senior Connor Wright and sophomore Dylan Allan, who all finished 21st-24th respectively. 

The Pioneer men put up a team score of 80 points, second only to West Virginia Tech University who scored 29 on the day. The Pioneer men’s team averaged a 27 minute, 30 second mile time. 

As runner up of the event, Point Park has a chance at qualifying for the NAIA National Championship meet if they are rank in the top 30 of the final NAIA men’s poll which will be released later this week.

The NAIA National Championship meet will be held Nov. 16, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.