Jillian Richardson found out right before her race at the NESCAC Championship, her first conference championship appearance as a Bates cross country runner, that the top-14 finishers earn All-NESCAC honors. 

“I didn’t even know until I got there how high you had to get to get that,” Richardson said. “Then I was like, ‘All right, hopefully I can, I guess that’s my goal.’”

Head coach Jay Hartshorn said she wrote down the goal on a piece of paper before the race and just hoped that Richardon would see it. But the goal for the freshman and former-Edward Little standout, as well as the rest of the runners on the team, was to run as just that: a team. 

Jillian Richardson runs for Bates College. Phyllis Graber Jensen

Specifically for Richardson, the goal was like many of her races this fall, which was to run alongside senior Olivia LaMarche for at least the first mile. Bates’ two top runners did just that, and both earned All-NESCAC honors with Richardson finishing in ninth, LaMarche 13th.

“Her and Olivia are really close in races and Olivia was just in front of her at (the Oberlin Inter-Regional Rumble in) Ohio, which was a big race for us,” Hartshorn said. “We try to stay together as long as we can so I kind of say, ‘Just run with Olivia and you’ve got it.’ We don’t really talk about the end result too much, we just talk about what we are going to do during the meet and we tell her, ‘You’re 10th, you’re 11th’ so that she doesn’t finish and finds out she’s really in 15th.”

For Richardson, the nerves finally kicked up for NESCACs, but the season has been a joy overall. 

“I was more nervous for NESCACs because I knew there was a lot of good teams,” Richardson said. “I was just thinking about gearing up to try to get our team up to nationals and get up in the rankings. It’s been fun just to travel as a team so far. It’s been a lot of fun traveling with them.”

Richardson enjoyed her time at EL, but the freshman has felt right at home as a Bobcat. 

“My favorite part is, at EL we could never decide upon a team cheer, so here we have a team cheer and we get together, do a stride out, and do a team cheer to get us going,” Richardson said. “At EL we would try to get together but it never quite worked out.”

She’s also taken advantage of strong competition on her own team, in practice and on the course, something she never had the luxury of as a Red Eddie. 

Richardson and LaMarche have been one-two in one order or the other all season and are even instructed to start races together. 

“She’s a lot better at pacing than I am so usually we have groups and then we are supposed to stay with them for the first mile,” Richardson said. “It’s really great to have a teammate there to check in and make sure you’re there. Usually we have paces we have to hit for the first mile, and actually at NESCACs we hit on the dot what our pace was supposed to be.”

Richardson’s 22:45 at NESCACs was just 10 seconds faster than her senior counterpart. At the Oberlin, Ohio race, LaMarche overtook Richardson by five seconds. 

Still, the goal for Bates is always team-oriented with NCAA regionals at Bowdoin College on the way on Nov. 16, and a path to nationals in sight. 

The top-two teams at each regional race across the country are automatically given a spot at nationals. With Bates competing against some teams that are inside the top-10 nationally, the Bobcats are focused on being one of the other teams chosen after the automatics in a process where strength of teams beaten is most important. 

“We built our resume how we needed to build it,” Hartshorn said. “Now it’s just going to the meet and executing. We have a really deep team this year.”

Richardson and LaMarche are both within reach of qualifying for nationals individually as the top-seven runners not on a state team are able to go.

Jillian Richardson runs for Bates College. Phyllis Graber Jensen


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