By Daniel Whitehead
BUENA VISTA, Va.—Despite all the planning in the world and our greatest efforts to fulfill those plans, it is possible they don't quite work out as we would have hoped.
With the Southern Virginia University women's cross country team seeking a 12th national title in program history, plans were made to prepare accordingly to defend its 2012 championship. However, it is difficult to foresee the number of injuries a given program might face each year, which hampered the team at multiple times throughout the season to the point that the Knights could not field a full team of five runners for four events during the year.
"We battled a lot of injuries during the season and had depth issues all year," said Southern Virginia head coach Logan Davis. "We had some great individual success, but it was a step back overall from where we've been the past few years due to not being healthy enough to compete at the level we needed to."
Senior Kera Macfarlane-Nielson was a consistent leader for the team as she finished first for the Knights in every race she competed in. The Yorktown, Va., native helped the team to a 12th-place finish at the USCAA national championship race in Syracuse, N.Y., by placing 18th in 26:01.
Southern Virginia was not allowed to place as a team at the Capital Athletic Conference race due to its provisional NCAA status, but Macfarlane-Nielson also led the team in Salisbury, Md., with a 37th-place finish time of 24:41. She earned career-best times in both the 5k (21:18) and 6k (24:41) during her senior campaign.
Freshman Rebecca Lords was also a strong force for the Knights as she consistently finished as the team's second runner. The Tooele, Utah, native ran a season-best 5k time of 22:01 at the Christopher Newport Invitational and season-best 6k at the CAC Championship in 25:34. She ended the year with a solid finish at the USCAA Championship race, placing 27th in the field in 26:33.
Junior Katelyn Tonini finished her Knight career with a personal-best 6k time of 29:10.30 at the CAC race and season-best 5k time of 25:25 at the Christopher Newport Invitational. A native of Houston, Texas, Tonini placed 13th at the Maroon Invitational in 27:33 and 101st place at the USCAA national race in 30:57.
Hayden Larman enjoyed a successful freshman season by opening the year with a 48th-place finish of 27:42 at the Washington and Lee Invitational, a season-best time. The Rockwall, Texas, native followed it up with a season-best 6k time of 33:49 at the York Invitational one week later.
Freshman Stephanie Peabody ran a season-best 5k of 38:07 for 21st place at the Maroon Invitational.
"We're really looking forward to next year because the girls will have had one more year in the system, so that's going to help us out," Davis said. "Despite the setbacks we had, I was happy with the individual efforts and contributions each girl brought to the team. Everyone had a good time and a positive attitude throughout the season."