GREENVILLE, Pa. (pacathletics.org)–For the fourth-straight year Waynesburg University was selected as the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) women’s cross country preseason favorite, according to the league’s annual preseason coaches’ poll. The results of the poll, voted on by the conference’s nine head coaches, were announced along with the league’s runners to watch list Tuesday.
Waynesburg, led by 10th-year head coach and four-time (2014, 2016-17, 2019) PAC Coach of the Year Chris Hardie, collected seven first-place votes and 71 total points to headline this year’s poll. The Yellow Jackets claimed their third-straight PAC title last fall, with the program’s five scoring runners finishing in the top 14 of the eight-team, 114-runner field.
Grove City College was second in this year’s poll, collecting one first-place vote and 65 points. Jessica Smith, who recently completed her second season as the Wolverines’ head track and field coach, was named the school’s director of cross country and track and field on July 15. She replaces Sean Severson in overseeing the cross country programs, who guided the women’s program to 12 conference titles over his 15 years as the head coach. Severson is a nine-time PAC Coach of the Year (2005, 2007-13, 2015) honoree.
The Wolverines had won 27-straight conference titles prior to Waynesburg’s current three-year run.
Geneva College finished third after securing the final first-place vote and 56 points. Phil Thompson, heading into his sixth season as the Golden Tornadoes’ head track and field coach, will replace Dr. Brian Yowler as the head cross country coach in 2019. Dr. Yowler had led the cross country programs since 2009.
Saint Vincent College was picked fourth with 51 points and was followed by Chatham University in fifth (42), Westminster College in sixth (35), Washington & Jefferson College in seventh (33), Bethany College in eighth (26) and Thiel College in ninth (17).
The runners to watch list is headlined by Chatham sophomore Rebecca Pennington (Petrolia, Pa. | Karns City), who earned the individual title at last year’s PAC Championships and claimed PAC Runner of the Year honors after posting a winning time of 23 minutes, 33.53 seconds (6:18/mile). She is Chatham’s first runner of the year since joining the league in 2007.
The top freshman finisher at last year’s NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Championships, Pennington ran to a seventh-place finish to become the first runner in program history to earn a spot in the Division III Championships, where she finished 118th in the 279-runner field.
Five All-PAC First Team, five All-PAC Second Team and four All-PAC Honorable Mention selections are listed on this year’s runners to watch list. The top seven finishers in both the men’s and women’s races receive All-PAC First Team recognition, while runners finishing eighth through 14th earn All-PAC Second Team honors. Runners finishing 15th through 21st receive All-PAC Honorable Mention recognition.
Waynesburg sophomores Aubrey Wingeart (King George, Va. | King George) and Gloria Reed (Missouri City, Texas | Ridge Point) posted third- and fourth-place finishes, respectively, at last year’s PAC Championships. Also returning are last year’s sixth- and seventh-place finishers in Grove City senior Heidi Hoffman (McDonald, Ohio | McDonald) and Geneva sophomore Jessie Taylor (Mohnton, Pa. | Mohnton).
The runners to watch list also includes nine members of the Fall 2018 PAC Academic Honor Roll, which recognizes student-athletes on varsity sports teams who have earned a grade-point average (GPA) of 3.6 or higher on a 4.0 scale during their semester of competition.
This year’s PAC Cross Country Championships, scheduled for Saturday, November 2, will be hosted by Westminster in New Wilmington, Pa. The men’s 8,000-meter race is scheduled to get underway at 11 a.m. with the women’s 6,000-meter race to follow at 12 p.m.
Muhlenberg College will host this year’s Division III Mideast Regional Championships on Saturday, November 16 at Lehigh University’s Goodman Campus Cross Country Course in Bethlehem, Pa. The men’s race is scheduled for 11 a.m. with the women’s race to follow at 12 p.m.
The Division III Championships are scheduled for Saturday, November 23 and will be hosted by Spalding University and the Louisville Sports Commission at EP Tom Sawyer State Park in Louisville, Ky. The men’s race will begin at 10 a.m. with the women’s race to follow at 11 a.m.