Viterbo Women’s Cross Country makes strides to return to nationals

Noah Nelson, Sports Editor

The Viterbo Women’s Cross-Country team has found their footing to start the season. They won an event and have been recording impressive times. The team believes that they are capable of accomplishing greatness, and with the quality of runners this year, things are looking promising. 

In the first event at the Luther All-American Invitational, the women took first place, with two runners in the top ten and five in the top 20. The team came in with 56 points, narrowly edging out Augustana at 58. Madelyn Adam was the low runner for the V-hawks, running a 5k in 21:01. Followed closely behind was Brenna McDonough at 21:08. Anya Hirsh and Freshman Hannah Butler came in shortly after in 13th and 14th place respectively.  

The second event took place two weeks later on September 24 at the Pioneer Gender Equity Invitational. Madelyn Adam, Anya Hirsch and Brenna McDonough all finished consecutively in fifth, sixth and seventh. They all ran under a six-and-a-half minute-per-mile pace over six kilometers. Ripon College just held off the V-hawks at 41 points to Viterbo’s 45.  

The team’s most recent event was at the NAIA Seminole Stampede hosted by Mt. Mercy. The girls placed second by only one point, but the team’s total time and average time were both better than the team that won.  

There will be two more events in the regular season.  On Oct. 15, the team competes at the Tori Neubauer Invitational against many NCAA opponents. On the following Saturday, Oct. 21, their regular season ends at the City Wells Invitational. 

The team’s main goal for the season is simple: make it back to nationals. There have been many individual qualifiers in recent years, and a team qualification in 2020. In order to qualify for the race, the women will need to win their conference meet. The meet is shaping up to be incredibly close with Coach Don Fritsch calling it a “battle royale” with Dickenson State. The teams both have experience, with Dickenson State going to nationals last year and Viterbo going the year before. 

This team is full of talented runners, and many of them have unique backgrounds that led them to the team. Madelyn Adam, the team’s number one runner, didn’t even plan on running for the team. Coach Fritsch said, “Madelyn Adam had never run cross country but ran as a freshman to use as conditioning for track.” She ended up winning runner of the week twice and qualifying for nationals as a freshman. She followed suit for the past two years, finishing second individually at the NSAA Championships as a sophomore and fourth as a junior. Brenna McDonough is one of the best distance runners on the track team, but she is also All Conference for Cross Country.  

Anya Hirsh was, according to Coach Fritsch, “More of a 400–800-meter runner coming in.” However, she obviously has strength in distance as well, winning last year’s steeplechase at the NSAA Conference Championships. Fritsch claims that this “Had her fired up and she worked really hard this summer.”  

The team’s youngest member, Hannah Bulter, has contributed to the team in a way that few freshmen in Viterbo history have. Coach Fritsch calls her, “one of the most talented freshmen to come into this program.”  

With only a few weeks remaining in the Women’s Cross-Country season, there is great hope that the season can extend to an appearance at Nationals. With the level of work and experience this team has, they will be sure to give Dickenson State a run for their money for the NSAA Conference title.