Distance Diaries

The UC Davis women's cross country team is back and more motivated than ever to make 2011 one for the record books. Follow the women all season long on their quest for a Big West Conference team title.

It's championship season in the Big West and Sarah Sumpter and the women's team have their eyes on one prize: winning.

Sarah Sumpter

Ladies and gents, welcome to the Wild, Wild West. There are no tumbleweeds, shotguns or bespectacled bartenders peering out of saloon windows anticipating the next drunken brawl. This is not a Clint Eastwood flick --but with the kind of energy that festers in and around the Big West Conference meet every October, you'd think good old Dirty Harry was just around the port-a-potty with his signature grimace and his dukes up. This is where, once a season, the multitudes of bodies that swarm the starting lines of invitational and preview meets are reduced to a select few groups, and everyone is out to make a name for themselves. Like the leather-studded sharpshooters of Hollywood legend, every team is ready to fight for the honor of being titled "Champion."

The difference between the conference-bound team that I am of a part of this year and that team with whom, two years ago, I first ventured into collegiate cross-country, is that we no longer train and compete merely in the hopes of someday reaching a champion caliber. We do so to show that we ARE champions. I have never witnessed a lack of dedicated or passionate individuals on this team, neither while standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my ladies in 2009 and now in 2011, nor, in times when life has dictated otherwise, from the sidelines. The tools, the skills, the work - and the heart - have always been there. What we have now is the knowledge and the power to affirm that we are great, and that great things are more than forthcoming.

The dust is rising, the chambers are loaded. We're just waiting for that first shot to go off.

Katie Fry

Freshman Katie Fry reveals her apprehension at beginning her first year with UC Davis cross country and how the women's team completely changed her expectations.

Beginning my freshman year here at UC Davis has been an experience that I was not expecting. My summer months were spent sweating out workouts alone in my small town thinking about how looming and scary college was going to be. I'm glad I was wrong.

Starting workouts with the team for the first time was exciting and eye opening. I was struggling a bit in the beginning, feeling sore and tired, sensations that I hadn't really felt since my freshman year in high school. But the team was inspiring, full of energy and love for the sport. I felt embraced by this new family instantly, and day by day I could feel myself and the team growing stronger and stronger together. We pushed each other and gave each other positive feedback and encouragement. This "team" feeling was something almost foreign to me coming from such a small school - even dressing to match my teammates is exciting and makes me feel a unity that I have never experienced.

My time at our team training camp was a week that I can't wait to relive next year. We ran some beautiful yet treacherous trails, freed ourselves from technology and turned ourselves into a family of cross country runners. I have had immense support from women on the team who have encouraged me and pulled me through several difficult workouts. A hill workout at camp was turned into a fierce team effort with Lauren Wallace, Sarah Tusting and me working with each other's strengths and weaknesses to pull ourselves through to an accomplished, well-run workout.

Having a group of fast, smart, and motivated women all striving to contribute to the same goal as well as improve themselves individually is really an amazing thing to witness and I'm very lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of it. We are strong and ready to do something amazing.

Senior team captain Samantha Kearney describes the one unifying emotion running through the women's team in 2011: win.

Samantha Kearney

I can picture it in my head like it was yesterday: the image of the men's team winning a team conference title for the first time in Aggie history. Along with this picture comes the bittersweet taste in my mouth of wanting to be up there, holding the same championship trophy with my incredible teammates.

There is something about being a senior that gives me a sense of urgency, determination, drive, and motivation that inspires me to train harder and smarter than ever before. As I walk through the gates, onto the track for my last first day of cross country practice I can't help but pause to take it all in. The excitement is buzzing in the air and an all too familiar tingling sensation runs thru my legs as I look at the smiling and sleepy faces all around me. Even though no one says it out loud, we all can feel it. This is our year; the year we will come back with a fiery vengeance. Conference front-running teammate Stumpy (Sarah Sumpter) puts it best: "We're going for blood!"

This will be my last time heading out to our preseason camp at Pt. Reyes, my last chance to conquer the Sky Trail that has literally left me crawling, and my last chance to inspire and light the fire under our women's team as we discuss our seasonal goals. The picture of the men's team hoisting the trophy above their heads as conference champions comes to mind, however this time it is the women's team holding that trophy high, for the entire faithful Aggie nation to enjoy, with pride beaming from our faces. This is our year.