Written and Media by Dylon Niswonger.
Each member of our Greenville Women’s Track and Field Team serves as a critical tool for the success of the team in one way or another. However, not every competitor on the team carries the guts or the sufficient amount of crazy needed for the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races.
On March 30, our Women’s Track and Field Team had five Panthers take on the distance festival hosted by Wash U. The distance festival provided 5,000 and 10,000-meter races for men and women collegiate athletes who were looking for stiff competition and to set their own personal records. The festival hosted 498 total competitors with thirteen heats available and roughly 40 runners within each heat. Our five ladies all raced in the 5k, which had 159 entries total. The track was coated in a stampede of runners. It was a distance runner’s dream.
Shirley Estes, a junior, was unsure what to expect come Good Friday because she had not competed since the fall cross country season. Estes chose not to compete during the indoor season for academic purposes but still trained throughout the winter. Racing each weekend functions as a weekly gauge of how competitors are doing. Coach Brian Patton advised her to shoot for a 21:10. Estes claimed that she felt strong throughout the majority of the race and consistently kept her mind off the depth of it. She felt the risk of slowing down during the third mile where the mental toughness kicks in. Estes put up a 20:16 finish time.
Also having not competed since the 2017 cross country season was junior Emily Hasselbusch. She stated that she was nervous to some degree going into the 5k as well. Hasselbach had attended the festival in 2017, so she had experience running the 5k on such a crowded track. She was shooting to run 6:45 per mile but absolutely blew that out of the water, finishing with a 20:19, which presented a prime start to the track season for her. She was nervous going into the 5k but came out happy with her performance and ultimately enjoyed the race.
Kori Nesbit, a sophomore, took part in the distance festival for her first time. She took advantage of the stout competition and cranked out a personal record. This was especially exciting considering the ups and downs she has endured this year. Coach Patton advised Nesbit to run a 21:10, but because of the opportunity at hand, she finished with a strong 20:46. Nesbit loved the festival and stated that she “had a lot of fun” and added “it’s a great experience for anyone who loves the sport.” This was a strong opening 5k for Nesbit.
Megan McKee, a senior, has only competed in the 1500 meter run or steeplechase in past outdoor seasons. Having never attended the distance festival or raced a 5k on a track before, nerves were expected. This had little impact on her race as she also produced a personal record time of 20:10. Mckee appreciated the intensity and idea of a purely distance track meet.
Lia Kruse, a senior, described the distance festival as “Christmas for distance runners” because of the immense opportunity to run a competitor’s best race. Kruse has raced at the festival before but, regardless, dealt with her own share of nerves. The stiff pressure forged yet another personal record for Kruse as well, and she crossed the finish line with an outstanding 18:37, which also qualified her for Christian Nationals.
Distance runners are a special breed. Many would question why anyone would relish running or racing 5,000 to 10,000 meters on the track, let alone have a festival for it. The distance festival brings in hundreds of runners every year and serves as a weekend of personal top performances for many. Our ladies all coined some great efforts and this weekend served as a significant inspiration heading into the heart of the season. Some of these ladies will be racing the 5k within the next two weeks at our own Greenville Select Invitational. I encourage you to come watch them strive for another personal best on Saturday, April 14.