Athlete of the Week: UW-Eau Claire Women’s Cross Country

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- The UW-Eau Claire women’s cross country team won their second straight WIAC championship on Saturday. The team is our Osseo Automotive Athlete of the Week. SportScene 13’s Neil Hebert has the story.

Five runners finishing in the top 13 at the WIAC conference championships: that’s how you card a 39, nearly 5 places higher per runner than 2nd place La Crosse.

“I knew we could do it this year,” Emma Drangstveit, who finished 13th at the WIAC meet, said. “When we all finished, we were all like, ‘I think we did it.’ It was an amazing feeling."

The Blugolds had 7 runners finish in the top 20. No other WIAC squad had more than 3.

“We’re an amazing team,” Drangstveit said. “We’re all really close and really competitive within the team, but we all care about the same goal and I think that really plays into our success.”

Last year’s team took 2nd at nationals and graduated some key runners, but 2018 isn't a rebuild.

“Our team had a lot of depth, but just kind of knowing that it was going to continue on even though some people would be graduating is really cool to see,” junior Sam Slattery said.

Slattery finished 2nd at the conference meet, just behind La Crosse’s Hannah Beilke.

“It felt good. I was kind of hoping I’d be a little closer to the girl from La Crosse that won, but I was happy with how we got out and how the race progressed and my time in the end,” Slattery said.

Winning two consecutive conference titles is a solid accomplishment, but they’re not satisfied with just that. The Blugolds have good reason to stay hungry: of their top 7 finishers at the conference meet, there are 2 seniors.

“Each year, as we’re getting better and better and moving up, it’s really exciting to see how everyone progresses,” Drangstveit said. “The chance to win 4 conference championships would be like a dream goal.”

The Blugolds hosted the WIAC meet and will now host the regional tournament at Whitetail Golf Course in Colfax November 10th.

“Especially after conference where both the men and the women had a race that they’re happy with: they know the course and they know they can run well on it,” Dan Schwamberger, the head coach of the team, said. “So I think it definitely helps. I’ll be pumping it up in our team meeting that it’s an advantage.”