LEESBURG, Va. – Saturday morning was a tale of what can happen when you set your mind to a goal and work consistently and unwaveringly to reach it. The tale begins and ends with graduate student Elaine Estes, a former walk-on who crossed the finish line as the eighth-fastest runner in the Atlantic 10 on Saturday morning.
Dominating the trails as SJU's top runner all season, Estes crossed the finish line of the Oatlands Plantation 5k course in a collegiate-best time of 18:13.9. Paced by a 5:52.1 mile average, Estes was in the mix from the very beginning, crossing the 2.4k mark tied for fifth (8:19.2).
"I'm definitely pleased," said Estes of her finish following the race. "I'm always focused and dialed in on getting through the line . . . I had this moment where I realized I was finishing at the front of the A-10 race. I came in as a walk-on and didn't even think I was going to make any A-10 teams, so this is definitely a cool feeling . . . I believe that if you work at something every day of your life, you never know what you can accomplish when you're committed for that long. I'm so glad I stuck with it for all of these years. I learned so much in the process."
"Elaine came in with a plan," said fifth-year head coach Melody O'Reilly. "She knew what she wanted. Her goal was to be in the top ten, and she did exactly that. She executed the race perfectly. She put herself out in front, responded when it started to go, and maintained her position. She did exactly what she intended to do."
Estes’ eighth-place finish ties with Emma Slattery’s (2012) for the highest individual A-10 finish by a Hawk since 2000.
Overall, the Hawks finished 13th in the 14-team field. The squad was without SJU's #2 runner Morgan Camerlo due to injury, and Camerlo's time on the course from earlier in the season would have been a significant difference-maker in the scoring. Additionally, half of the SJU squad was involved in a fall just 400 meters into the race.
Senior Samantha Mayers finished as SJU's #2 runner in 67th overall, clocking in with a collegiate-best time of 19:44.4 for her first sub-20:00 5k, while fellow senior veterans Emily Schaeffer (78th, 20:00.6) and co-captains Emily Bracken (82nd, 20:03.8) and Meridith Twomey (86th, 20:09.5) rounded out the scoring for the Crimson and Gray.
On her first time on the Oatlands Plantation course, junior Morgan Patten finished as SJU's #6 runner (89th, 20:10.3 PR) while junior Abigail Silva (97th, 20:29.2) and senior Abigail McGann (98th, 20:32.2 PR) turned in SJU's seventh- and eighth-fastest performances.
Eight select Hawks will return to action at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship on Friday, November 15 at the Goodman Campus in Bethlehem, Pa. The 6k race is set for 11:00 a.m.