Women’s Cross Country take home RSC Championship

Entire team will travel to Tallahassee, Florida to take part in NAIA National competition after all runners placed Top-25

Written By Antonio Rossetti, Co-Sports Editor

Jot it down in the record books. Point Park Women’s Cross Country fights off the wicked winds of Indiana and wins the 2022 River States Conference (RSC) Championship.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, the Pioneers came in 1st out of 10 teams at the RSC Cross Country in Kokomo, Indiana. The winds in Kokomo reached over 30 mph, but that didn’t stop the Pioneers in their pursuit of taking home 1st place.

Last season, two runners qualified for Nationals with the team finishing in 2nd, but this season, Point Park is taking the entire team to Tallahassee because of their 1st place finish.

Sophomore Jana Schmid qualified for Nationals last season and she said she is glad that she gets to go with the entire team this year.

“When Coach (Tim) Creamer came smiling towards us, I knew that we won Conferences,” Schmid said. “It was an amazing feeling when he told us that we won. Everyone was so happy and proud of each other.”

Point Park blew the competition out of the water, posting 44 points. The 2nd place St-Mary-of-the-Woods notched 75, 31 points behind the Pioneers.

Senior Alyssa Campbell finished 1st out of all runners at the meet, running the 5k in 18:56.60. Despite her extraordinary finish, Campbell found out that if they were to take her performance away, the team would have still finished in first.

“That was so fulfilling to hear that they just worked so hard and they really put it all out there they didn’t give up, they carried each other when the other was down,” Campbell said. “I was just so happy to see that.”

Point Park’s top 7 runners were Campbell (18:56.6), sophomore Carlijn de Bie (20:02.21), Schmid (20:15.8), freshman Emily Leo (20:34.21), junior Allison Plassio (20:56), freshman Kiyara Sawyers (21:20.6), and senior Natalia Zucco (21:23.2).

De Bie and Schmid placed in the top 10 of the entire race, finishing in 6th and 7th.

Campbell, Point Park’s top runner, credits coach Josef DiPietrantonio’s advice in separating herself from Rio Grande’s Amarissa Kerns, the no. 2 runner whom she befriended after the race, and St-Mary-of-the-Woods’ Kayla Coryea, the no. 3 runner.

“He was telling all of us if you ever get caught up with someone, make sure you get in a good spot and just start booking it through the woods because when you come out of there, you have about 800 to 700 meters left and that’s it,” Campbell said. “That’s some of the best advice that coach Josef has given me because that was where that separation happened between me and those other girls.”

Campbell used her last year of eligibility this season and heads to nationals for her 4th season out of 5.

“It was like God opened these doors for me and I was able to fall in love with running all over again and that was really special to me,” Campbell said. “I was almost crying but didn’t, but it was like I fell in love with running all over again. I’ve had my back and forth with this sport as every athlete does but it was what I was really thinking about going down that finish line.”

This wasn’t any ordinary race. This was her last chance to make nationals one last time. Campbell wanted to make the most out of her last conference meet for cross country.

“I tried to really take it in as I was going down the straightaway because it was really special for me because I’ve run so many races in my life and I only have one more left for my cross country career and it’s going to be in Tallahassee,” Campbell said. “That’s just awesome. I was really just taking it in. I was trying to enjoy it.”

Campbell said she was impressed with her teammates and that they motivated her.

Schmid was also motivated by her teammates and she expressed how honored she is to be a part of the team.

“It is always great to know you have teammates on a similar level than you,” Schmid said. “Carlijn (de Bie) and also Allie (Plassio) pushed me through the season and the race, cause we all run similar times during workouts and races. Carlijn had an amazing race and I am really proud of her and her progress during the season.”

Schmid added that she is excited to run and spend time with her teammates in Tallahassee at the NAIA National Championship.

“At nationals, we will try to put ourselves in the best position we can,” Schmid said. “There will be a lot of good teams but I am convinced that all of our runners are in great shape and can compete with them. I am especially looking forward to seeing how Alyssa Campell will run this race. I am convinced she can qualify as one of the top people.”

The men’s cross country team also competed at the RSC Championship and finished 5th out of 10 teams.

Although the team did not qualify for nationals, sophomore Elijah James is proud of how hard his team ran.

“There were 30-mile-per-hour winds and it was raining and it was muddy, but we came out there and killed it out there, honestly, especially for the conditions,” James said. “There are guys out there that ran way faster than us. We had some guys on our team beat those guys because we were just tougher runners. That’s one good thing we got out of that. Even though we didn’t make nationals, we still got next year.”

During the men’s race, a tree was blown over onto the course, but the Pioneers stayed determined. Point Park didn’t get the results that they wanted, but bonds were created throughout the season for the team. James said he will miss the senior class.

“I looked up to every single one of them,” James said. “I would talk to them for advice with running and stuff. If I needed help with some schoolwork, then they’d give me some advice on how to do it better. They really contributed to the team a lot. I feel like the team wouldn’t bring that energy without them, so I was really thankful for them.”

The top 7 runners for the Pioneers were James (28:26.4), senior Deven Carter (28:34.8), senior Logan Gonzales (28:38.40), senior Treven Carter (28:51.2), sophomore Ramiro Ulunque (28:57.6), freshman Josh Gosselin (28:58.10), and freshman Gabe Ebersole (29:18.5).

James said he was proud of Deven’s performance at the conference meet and that he was proud of how well Gonzales did down the stretch, running consecutive 8ks in 27 minutes.

The Pioneers will now prepare for the indoor and outdoor track and field season. Last season, Point Park men and women’s teams won indoor and outdoor RSC championships. The men’s team had a record performance last year and James said the team has the talent to repeat the success.

“Our plan was to just take 7 to 10 days off, and just get back in action,” James said. “At the end of November, we’ll then get ready to start running for indoor track and field. We all specialize in different events, so we are going to break up in terms of practicing with each other, but we’ll still be connected in some way during the indoor and outdoor season.”