As Hastings College first-year Veronica Pinkerton crossed the finish line at the GPAC (Great Plains Athletic Conference) Cross Country Championship meet on Nov. 7th, the three HC National Championship Qualifiers could not help but be overcome with joy.
Pinkerton, who finished in tenth place (19:38.18), crossed the finish line and before fellow first-year teammate Madison Gerken, who had just finished in ninth place (19:32.58), had a chance to say good job, she shouted, “We did it!”
“In that moment I knew exactly what she was talking about and I began grinning from ear to ear. I was ecstatic,” Gerken said.
Sam Crossett, a senior who has battled injuries throughout her college career, finished in seventh place (19:21.08). She knew that HC would have a chance for the three of them to qualify, but was still unsure about how the race would pan out.
“I might have actually screamed, I was so excited and so proud of Maddy and Veronica. I knew it was a strong possibility going into the race but I didn’t want to make them nervous,” Crossett said.
Coming into the year, each of the three runners had goals for the season, but each had barriers to overcome to get to where they are now.
Crossett’s goal was always to qualify for Nationals this year, but knew she needed to stay healthy and treat every practice like it could be my last one.
“The most important thing for me is that I run because I like it. As a senior the worst part about your sport is knowing that you’re going to have to leave it, but if I know I gave it my best and had fun doing it then I can always have running just not in the same way,” Crossett said.
For Gerken, she was unsure about how her success in high school would translate to college.
“My biggest goal coming into this year was to strive for improvement. In high school, I was fortunate enough to run a sub 20 minute 5k on the very last race of my senior year. Going into college, I was determined to work hard, and strive for improvement to help better my time and to put me in the best position to reach my goals,” Gerken said.
Pinkerton had a combination of Crossett’s and Gerken’s question marks as she ran her first season of cross country in college, while also recovering from right knee tendinitis that she suffered during the summer.
“Coming into the year I wasn’t thinking about goals as big as Nationals… After my knee healed up, I was just hoping to help out the team as much as possible. My first goal before was to get my times back down. For the conference meet, my goal was to medal,” Pinkerton said. “I tried to focus on times instead judging my races based on what place I got and that helped me a lot this year. It was good to see that all the training we did paid off by the end of the season.”
The Broncos will have to wait to see how they fare at Nationals, as the race has been moved to April 9th in Cedar Rapids, Iowa due to COVID-19 precautions.
“A lot could change between now and spring, but luckily cross country is really a three season sport,” Crossett said.
In order to prepare for Nationals, Pinkerton plans on keeping some decent mileage in hopes of keeping her endurance up since she runs more middle distance during track.
For Gerken, she described her expectations for Nationals as ‘unclear’, especially with having to shift from more middle distance in track to building endurance in cross country. She understands that Nationals will be one of the biggest races she has ever competed in and is just thankful to have some teammates to experience it with.