North Central Women’s Cross Country Season Recap

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North Central Women’s Cross Country Season Recap: Fiore finishes her Cardinals career with at Nationals and a young team gains experience.

For many teams returning to normal schedules, this season felt like a chance to reset. The North Central women’s cross country team hoped to take full advantage of that opportunity this fall to use the season to build the program for the future.

Mahesh Narayanan, Head Coach: “It’s a learning year for us. We because we have three seniors and we have a lot of we have a lot. We just have a mixed bag of experiences. And so part of that was with the shutdown, with having a full season. So, so really, this year we did some sorting. We did some experience building. We did some team building. So we are really trying to set ourselves up over this next semester and even beyond. So it’s going to take all of us though in terms of this year. It’s just understanding how to be patient in certain places and not over expecting, but at the same time keeping a standard and reminding, you know what the cross-country seasons about. So there’s a lot of things going on, but for the most part, it’s really it’s really, you know, the trajectory is going forward and hopefully ticking upwards, and we still got a few weeks to go. So we want to we want to make sure we keep our our our focus on what’s what’s ahead of us. “

The team was led by a trio of seniors: Jenna Fiore, Allie Ganser and Rachael Vaccaro. On a team with nine underclassmen all running in their first full season, their leadership was vital for guiding the group through pandemic challenges and back into normal competition.

MN: They drive a lot of the internal parts of our program. They’re great sounding boards. They really advise the young, the young newcomers and the sophomores and juniors. So they’re not just helping, they’re really are part of the program and they really are very prideful of where they came from their freshman year, going through the some of the shutdowns, going through some of the other different changes on campus. So they really bring a lot of insight. I go to them as as a sounding board. I go to them for advice. They they provide great insights, so they are very vital and valuable to what we’re doing right now.

Jenna Fiore, Senior: “Yeah, so without having like a real season last year, we were kind of mentoring the freshmen and sophomores this year, so it’s kind of different then also the juniors, honestly, because they haven’t had a full year either. So we’ve really been working well together and to get everyone caught up to speed on how we do things at North Central, so. “

Rachael Vaccaro, Senior: “The underclassmen have been really good about taking charge too and following along and being good learners, so they’ve made it easy on us.”

While they know how important their leadership roles are, the seniors wanted to make sure this season to appreciate every moment they still have as collegiate runners. 

Meanwhile, the team’s younger runners got their first taste of collegiate action and everyone found reasons to cherish being out on the course this fall.

Julia Benes, Freshman: “I really liked it. I really like the team aspect of it. It’s so fun, like getting to run with like with all your good friends. So yeah, it’s been a good time and I also really like just running D3 too. So it’s like a good balance. Like everything.”

RV: “It’s a lot nicer than last year. It was a little hard to practicing every day and not having meets. But we did time trials to kind of make up for it and try to get something out of the season. So it’s a lot nicer to be able to compete again.” 

JF: “I’m excited, I think all of us have worked really hard, and that’s really just the last test to put everything that we’ve done since honestly summer till now. So I’m really excited to see what we can do.”

Jenna went on to finish her collegiate career with a trip to the national championships in November, and there’s no doubt she’ll be greatly missed. But change is constant in college athletics, and for this team runners will continue to come and go. In the big picture, it’s less about how many races are won and more about how student athletes develop as people over the course of their careers. 

MN: “This never gets old, and that’s part of the reason you stay in the business. I think part of the challenge of this job is and this career is that things change every few years. You get different personnel coming in and coming out. But really, that high set of all this is you really get to see a lot of growth, you know, and you get to see people come from different places, different high school programs, different families, and you really get to see them really develop over the course of time, you know, through the seasons, through their college career, you know, even at graduation, it’s amazing to see people get to that point. It still gets pretty exciting every year. So, you know, so you know, in the way I look at it to be part of a college program, you know, athletically, academically and let alone do it for four years, it’s a pretty big deal and it’s always pretty, I’m always in wonderment. It’s pretty cool to see.”