HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Sophomore Erin Phelps pulled away over the final mile for the first cross country victory of her running career, pacing the Florida State women to a runaway victory at Saturday’s UAH Charger Open.
With five runners among the top-10 finishers the Noles totaled 24 points, easily outdistancing runner-up Union University (78 points) and the rest of the 12-team field.
Phelps, one of a handful of Noles at the meet vying for a spot on the ACC Championship roster, came into the meet with a great deal of confidence. And the Tallahassee native and Chiles High product didn’t disappoint.
“I definitely felt like I would have my teammates as my competition, because they have practiced and trained well,” said Phelps, who received some pre-race words of encouragement from operations assistant Alex Midgett. “Alex kind of motivated me before we started, saying that she believed that I could [win]. I definitely took that to heart and tried to live up to the expectations.”
Phelps was running at the front with teammates Yasmine Abbes and Ginelle DeMone at the two-mile mark on the brand new course which was formerly the Huntsville Municipal Golf Course, when she realized the pace had slowed from the first mile.
“I looked at my watch and thought, ’Man, we slowed down. I have to pick it up,’” she said. “After that I kind of made the move and tried to make up that ground I felt that I had lost. I just kind of worked it from there.”
She crossed the finish line in 17:50.51 – one of eight personal-best 5k cross country times on the day for the Noles – 21 seconds clear of freshman teammate and runner-up Abbes (18:11.73), who also recorded a personal-best.
Redshirt sophomore Kayla Easterly (18:43.33) finished fifth followed by freshman Abby Schrobilgen, another Chiles High grad, in ninth (19:05.31) and classmate Mo Palmer (19:09.72), who also joined the PB parade.
“Surprisingly there were so many PRs,” said FSU coach Kelly Phillips. “It was stinking hot. I’m impressed with them. They all did a nice job. They all left pretty pleased with themselves. They were all really stiff because it was a long bus ride yesterday and it could have gone either way.”
Race time temperatures climbed into the 80s as the morning clouds gave way to bright sun shortly after the gun sounded. The conditions were far from ideal for fast times over the rolling course, but the Noles charged on, undaunted.
Behind the front five was a four-person chase pack of Noles, all of whom recorded lifetime bests. Freshman Rachel Johnson (16th, 19:33.42) whacked more than three minutes over her previous best, with junior Mariah Zupan (17th, 19:35.89) on her heels. Zupan was nearly 80 seconds faster than her previous best.
“She’s just one of those people who are pretty quiet and works hard,” Phillips said of Zupan. “Those people often blend in and get missed, but she wasn’t going to get missed today.”
Redshirt sophomore Kaley Boethig made her FSU debut with a personal-best time of 19:36.52 to finish 19th, while freshman Ashley David was 22nd in 19:44.82 in her first 5,000-meter race. Freshman Alesandra Wiechecki-Vergara (35th, 20:18.54) rounded out the personal-best efforts.
On a day when nine of 20 Noles made their collegiate debuts, there was plenty to celebrate, and Phelps was happy to share her first win with teammates.
“It’s definitely different than in track, because there are so many events and there could be other people who could have beat you but had other events to do,” said Phelps, whose only two previous wins came on the track in high school. “It being cross country had a different feeling…My teammates were very encouraging afterward and it made the whole experience a full-circle thing.”