The women’s cross country team looked a whole lot different last weekend than it did just a few weeks ago.
At the Leopard Invitational last Saturday, sophomore Jenna Dubrow still led the team with her sixth-place finish. But after that, the team saw junior Anna Pavone place 21st and freshman Christin Bettis finish in 39th place as the team placed fifth overall.
For Pavone, the event was her first cross country race of the season. She suffered a stress fracture in her pelvis this summer, so the decision was made to come back slow after getting cleared from an MRI. The extra time off helped Pavone in some ways, but for her, it was still tough watching her teammates race from the sidelines.
“Right now, I feel like it’s a good thing, because I’m more relaxed and ready to go,” Pavone said. “But when I watched the races before the first and second meet, I wanted to be out there too because I knew I could run with those girls. It was tough to watch that.”
While Pavone was making her season debut, Bettis was making her collegiate debut.
“I think [Bettis] did awesome, because this was her first time back to practice since she wasn’t cleared until last week,” Pavone said. “She didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to expect my first meet here either. She didn’t finish bad at all, but I think she can finish better in the future.”
Coach Adam Bray said he was impressed with Bettis’ performance, but like Pavone, sees potential for even more.
“I thought [Bettis] did a really good job,” Bray said. “She had a few moments where she showed she was kind of rusty and was kind of a deer in the headlights, but she handled it pretty well. She made some mistakes, but she learned from them.”
Without Pavone and Bettis at the Paul Short Invitational, the team’s most recent meet going into last weekend, the gap between Dubrow and the team’s second-best finisher, sophomore Chelsea Carleton was a significant one. Dubrow came in 13th at the race, while Carleton, running in her third cross country race at Temple, placed 113th.
“Adding them to the team completely changed the dynamic,” Bray said. “You add two or three runners to the team and it automatically becomes that much better. Obviously, without those two, the team goes from being a fifth-place team to maybe a ninth-place one.”
“That’s a really big deal for [Pavone] to come back and run close to a two-minute [personal record], the fastest she’s ever run before, in her first race of the season,” Bray added. “It shows how talented she is and what her commitment level is to being good.”
Bray has implemented a rest day every week for the team to recover. Pavone said the team had no days off last year, only an “easy day” in which they had lighter workouts.
As someone who has been with the team since the 2010 season, Pavone said the training along with other factors is making a difference.
“Compared to last year and my freshman year, everything was unorganized, and a lot of people had confidence issues and were always negative,” Pavone said. “But now our coach is really stressing no negativity and he’s stressing the rest periods.”
As for Pavone, Bray said she has played a big part in bringing an “energy” to the team.
“I think she’s trying to figure out what her role on the team is in terms of leadership,” Bray said. “But [Pavone] is doing a really good job, and she’s even been helping with the recruits on campus. She’s more than willing to be a host for a visit, which is great because she has a great personality.”
“She’s still young in the sport, and she’s still learning,” Bray added. “But she’s the kind of person where if I say, ‘Anna, do this,’ she’s going to do it, and she’s going to do it 100 percent.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.