The Webster University women’s cross-country team had a good season last fall by all counts. They finished second in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and placed two runners on the All-Conference second team.
However, on Oct. 30 of last year at the SLIAC championship, Principia College edged Webster by four points to win the championship, putting a damper on the season.
“It really stuck in my craw last year when we lost to them by such a close margin,” sophomore Heather Heisse said. “We have to beat Principia this year.”
Junior Jane McKibben, who finished ninth at the conference championship, was also frustrated with how the season unfolded.
“As a team, we want to be first in conference,” McKibben said. “Last year, losing to Principia by a few points really hurt. We want to win this thing this year.”
The team returns its top three runners in McKibben, Heisse and sophomore Eroica Stackhouse. Four freshmen round out the team’s roster.
“We’ve finally got a nice mix of experience and newcomers,” cross-country coach Dusty Lopez said. “Every other year, we’ve been so heavily weighted toward freshmen that it was always tough going at first. This year, we should be more consistent and we should get off to a good start.”
On the men’s side, Webster hopes to continue its steady growth with an experienced but small team.
“We didn’t really lose anyone,” Lopez said. “The team continues to grow. Our only senior — Tony Morales — we picked up when the tennis coach suggested him to me, and he had never run before. Now in his third season, he has become one of our most consistent, dedicated trainers, and he competes way beyond his experience level.”
Lopez said junior Dan Henkey is the men’s top runner and will be counted on to be the team’s leader.
“I try to lead by example by doing full workouts and extra practice,” Henkey said. “My goals — for my team and myself — are to stay healthy, because we are a small team.”
Although the Webster men should be improved from last year, it will be tough to overtake conference powers Greenville and Principia, who finished No. 1 and 2, respectively, last year in the conference. The Gorloks finished sixth.
The men and women get into action with a dual meet on Sept. 1 against Westminster College. The Gorloks then compete in the Washington University Early Bird meet on Sept. 3.