On Nov. 18, on the snowy hills of Michigan State’s Forest Akers Golf Course, Tufts cross country competed in the NCAA Division III Championships. The men’s team qualified for the meet while, on the women’s side, senior Lauren Pollak was the only female runner to represent the team in Michigan.
The weather that day was far from ideal — the temperature was well below freezing and the wind made the real-feel significantly colder. Pollak commented on the harsh race day conditions.
“It had been around 20 degrees and a feel of below 10,” Pollak said. “It was definitely tough while racing — I felt like I was slipping a lot on the snow — but that’s real cross country, that’s what you train for.”
Considering these circumstances, Pollak ran an impressive time of 24:26.8 for six kilometers, with an average pace of 6:33.5 per mile. She placed 238th out of 292 runners. This was Pollak’s third and final appearance in the NCAA Championships and she was just as eager to compete this year as she was during her freshman season.
“I’ve dealt with a lot of injury issues, so I wasn’t sure if I’d ever make it to the starting line,” said Pollak. Being able to “show up and be healthy was really, really important to me.”
Competing without her fellow teammates was certainly a challenge, however Pollak didn’t let it get in the way of her attitude and her performance.
“I was honestly just happy to be there,” Pollak said.
On the men’s side, the harsh weather conditions posed a significant challenge for the Jumbos. Sophomore Ivan Appleton led the pack in the Men’s 8K, running 26:16.7 for an average pace of 5:17.2 per mile. He placed 141st out of 292 runners. Fellow sophomore Martin Horne was the next Tufts runner to cross the finish line, with a time of 27:07.3.
The men’s team, as Pollak noted, seemed to get “trampled” at the beginning of the race, making it extremely difficult to catch up to the pack. Even though the men’s team may not have accomplished what they set out to on paper, Pollak explained how she is “really proud of everyone and how they competed.”
Faced with the toughest conditions, the Jumbos gave it their best shot in Michigan to finish the cross country season. Pollak and the rest of the team now look forward to the upcoming track season, during which they will have a chance to display more of their gutsy racing and unique team environment.