On a recent early morning, the Mary Baldwin cross-country team met for practice in Gypsy Hill Park. A few minutes into their workout, it started pouring rain. The runners quickly adapted, kept each other smiling, and posted great practice times — one of them even racked up a personal record on the wet course.
“We get along as a group really well and encourage each other during practices and meets,” said Sophia Stone ’14. “Both that and a sense of humor come in handy at six in the morning.”
This year’s team is ready to handle tough conditions and courses. The top five scorers from last year have returned, including All-American Stone. Two returning sophomore runners, twins Carolyn and Kimberly Denny, add a little sibling rivalry to the team. Freshmen Wendy Deptula and Virginia McGiboney, recruited for their speed, round out the roster of 10 runners.
“The runners came back in good shape,” Sharon Spalding, head coach of cross country and director of athletics and physical eduation at Mary Baldwin, said, “we’re meeting many goals and they set very high individual goals for themselves.”
This preparedness was on display at the team’s first meet August 31 at Christopher Newport University. The Mary Baldwin runners competed in the 5K and all achieved personal records for that event. Stone beat the whole field by a minute and a half and set a new 5K record for Mary Baldwin.
The team excels in the classroom as well as on the course. Deptula, who ranked at the top of her class at Central High School in Monmouth, Oregon, impressed the Mary Baldwin faculty members who interviewed her during a visit to campus last March. Having the opportunity to run was a major draw for her.
“Cross country was a huge factor in bringing me hundreds of miles away from my little town,” Deptula said. “These ladies have become like a second family to me.”
Looking forward to their next meet, Spalding hopes to pursue her overarching goal of becoming a regionally ranked team. The runners and coaches look forward to good practices — what Spalding calls “the best part of her day” — and a successful season, built on the strength of their teamwork.
“When you want to quit at mile two, you remember that the speed and endurance and mental preparedness you have are not results of solely your own efforts, but that other people — coaches, teammates, supporters — have invested as much, and your race will reflect those combined efforts,” Stone said. “It’s a testimony to the work of an entire team.”
The Mary Baldwin cross country team will next compete at the James Madison University Invitational at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 15 at New Market Battlefield.