GAMBIER, Ohio — The upcoming 2022 season will certainly bring a lot of change for the Kenyon College women’s cross country program. The Owls enter their schedule with a trimmed-down roster, as well as a new coach. Some of the challenges ahead are apparent, but the Owls are ready to move forward and continue what has been a long line of success for the program.
A healthy team started out the season with high expectations and, for a few weeks, followed through on that forecast. After a tune-up in week one, the Kenyon women claimed second place at the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) Preview and then chalked up a win at the Muskingum Invitational. Senior Emma Becker, as well as juniors Anna Harnsberger and Alice Riley were cranking out top-10 individual finishes over the course of those first few weeks.
From there, the roster began to unravel with Harnsberger and Riley missing multiple weeks for various reasons. The team put together a respectable seventh-place showing at Wilmington’s JennaStrong Fall Classic, but at the NCAC Championship, Kenyon did not reach its own expectations and wound up in fourth place. Individually, however, Becker placed third at that NCAC meet and Harnsberger was eighth.
Kenyon then placed in the middle of the pack at the NCAA Regional Championship with Becker gaining individual qualification for the NCAA Division III Championship, an event in which she placed 104th among the 292 participants.
Cross country is one NCAC sport that does not conduct preseason polls. Instead, the poll is put together right before the NCAC Championship meet. Last year, the coaches correctly predicted the order of finish with Allegheny College taking the crown, DePauw University placing second, The College of Wooster claiming third and Kenyon finishing fourth.
Ciara Kissane, the program’s head coach for the previous two seasons, departed late in the summer for another position at her alma mater. Kenyon turned to Kim Clark to step in and take over for Kissane. Clark, who was hired on an interim basis, has 20 years experience with athlete development, 12 of those years specific to triathlon. She’s no stranger to Kenyon, as she worked as a Volunteer Assistant Coach with the men’s and women’s swimming and diving programs throughout the 2021-22 season.
Clark is Head Coach and Owner of Impact Multisport, a USA Triathlon High Performance Team focused on middle and high school students who race in the youth and junior draft-legal development series. Additionally, she has experience coaching and training high school swimmers and runners to prepare to compete in Triathlon at the NCAA level. During the 2013-14 season, she worked as an Assistant Coach with The Ohio State University Triathlon team.
Assisting Clark through the 2022 season will be two alums, Kerry Strader ’14 and Dannie Lane ’22, who also both work at the College in other capacities.
The Owls’ 2022 roster has eight runners listed. Although that’s thin by Kenyon standards, there is still plenty of talent to keep the team in contention. Topping the list of returning runners are Riley and Harnsberger, now both seniors. Riley was only able to compete four times last season, but her results included three top-five finishes and a 13th-place showing among 258 runners at Wilmington College. Harnsberger had four top-10 finishes last season and placed 39th at the regional meet, narrowly missing all-region honors.
Ella Wilson, another senior for the upcoming 2022 season, made significant strides a year ago. She was only able to run three races, but she ended up 11th at Muskingum, 23rd at the NCAC Championship and 79th of 266 runners at the NCAA Regional Championship.
There is no arguing that the graduation of Becker is going to sting. A United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association All-American and a College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-American, Becker led the pack for three seasons. She was also a two-time All-Region honoree, two-time NCAA qualifier and the 2019 individual NCAC Champion.
Other losses the program must work through include graduates Hailey Napier, Davida Harris and Cecily King. All three, at different points last season, scored points for Kenyon.
For the first time in quite a while, the Owls do not have a home meet on their schedule. They’ll start the season on Thursday, September 1 at The College of Wooster. Two weeks later, they’ll head to Cedarville University for the annual All-Ohio Championship. October 1 will be the pre-national meet at Olivet College. The NCAC Championship is slated for October 29 and the NCAA Regional Championship will be run November 12 at Hope College.