The Pacific University Men’s and Women’s cross country teams both ran at the NW Conference Championships last Saturday, October 30th in Mcminnville. The women’s team placed second overall and the men’s team finished fourth overall, which is the highest combined team finish at the NW Conference Championships in school history. These finishes tie the women’s highest team finish in 2019, and for the men, it is the highest team finish in almost two decades.
Senior, Kara Putman broke away from the pack to win the women’s race, making her the second Boxer in school history to win the women’s NWC title with a time of 23:08 for the 6k.
According to Putman, her cross country, career has always been a constant uphill battle and it was not until Putman’s fifth-place finish her sophomore year that the idea of becoming conference champion became more of an achievable goal.
“That finish kind of boosted my confidence a bit and that is when I decided I could be a little quicker, I could be up there in the conference.”
There was nothing to hold back for Putman this season, with the 2020 season being nonexistent with COVID-19. Unlike previous years, running was Putman’s only time to destress from school.
“I have really intentionally focused at practice to not think about all of the other stuff,” said Putman. “This year I just put all of my focus and energy into practice when I am there because it’s my one time to not be thinking about school and senior capstone and all my other club stuff going on.”
When the conference championship came around this season, Putman was as prepared as she could have been under the training from Bailee Coefer, head cross country coach, and the support of her teammates pushing her in workouts.
The course consisted of three 2k loops for the women and Putman created a racing strategy based on that. Putman made the decision to hang out with the front runners, going at a pace that she felt like she could hold, and made a big move to break from the pack at the end of the second loop.
“I was really thinking I don’t want to make this race a sprint the last 200 to try to win or end up second because I was lazy,” said Putman. “The whole last loop I was terrified someone was going to blow past me so I just tried to keep this pace to finish it out with everything I had left.”
With the conference win under Putman’s belt, both men’s and women’s cross country teams look to compete at regionals on Saturday, November 13th, at Pomona-Pitzer University in Southern California. — Emily Rutkowski