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The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

W&L women’s cross country continues to dash toward nationals

The Generals have had a successful start to their season with top finishes at their first few meets and hope for their momentum
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Generals Athletics
Elise Molinaro, ‘24, races to first at Dickinson with her teammates not far behind.

Head coach Michael “Mike” Dager said the culture of his 2023-24 women’s cross country team is something he just can’t put his finger on – it’s different in an exciting way.
That might explain why the 2023-24 season has seen so much success.
“We are pushing one another in practices, workouts and meets, and in turn, our team culture is thriving,” Sophia Breschi, ’26, said. “You can definitely feel that there is something special about this group of women.”
The Generals started their season off strong with a first-place finish at their first meet of the season at the Shippensburg University Galen Piper Invitational. The following weekend, the team captured second place at the Lebanon Valley College Invite.
Eight first-years joined the team this season – making it the largest first-year class the program has had. Each new teammate brings their running talent and personality to the 2023-24 team.
“Our strength this season is in our depth and the spread between our top group of runners,” Dager said.
He added that his team’s first four athletes were all within nine seconds of one another at the Dickinson Long/Short invite on Sept. 23.
The next group to come across the line wasn’t far behind as the eighth runner was only 35 seconds behind Elise Molinaro, ’24, who won the race.
“That tight pack of runners will really serve us well in larger meets later in the season,” he said.
The Generals conquered the meet at Dickinson College. Molinaro was named the Old Dominion Athletic Conference Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week on September 26 following her first-place finish. She finished the race at Dickinson with a time of 14:49.6, averaging a pace of 5:58 per mile. This was her first career ODAC Athlete of the Week honor.
“I cannot say I was expecting this, but once I realized I could lead the race, I set it in my mind that it was possible and that I wasn’t going to let anyone pass me,” Molinaro said. “I realized that we get to do this, we don’t have to do this… If you truly enjoy and invest in the process, the results will come.”
Dager was not only excited for Molinaro’s success, but for those who came in right behind her too.
Winning a college cross country meet is a special moment for any runner and Elise experienced it for the second time in her career. It’s even more exciting when you turn around and 24 seconds later the entire top seven is also in the chute.”
Crossing the finish line less than a minute behind Molinaro was a pack of first-years including Reese Brown, Olivia Warr, and Lydia Harvey.
“Our top 10 spread is much closer than it was last year which is exciting for displacing other teams, and the possibility of team qualification for nationals,” said Breschi.
Dager said he is focused on fostering an environment where everyone can make a contribution on any given day. He said the team has a trophy that the runners pass around weekly to recognize things people are doing that are making a difference.
“It rarely is awarded for anything related to performance. It’s awarded for being a great teammate, a great leader, looking out for someone, making all the first-years feel welcome,” Dager said. “We aren’t overly focused on results, and that’s probably why the women are experiencing the successes they are this season.”
The Generals returned to Dickinson College on Oct. 7 for an NCAA Division III preview meet where they placed 11th according to the Generals Athletics site.
The team will compete next at the Roanoke Cross Country Invite in Salem, Va. on Oct. 13.

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