This Saturday, Bobcat senior Sydney Pineault will be racing for Wesleyan history, becoming the first individual to race at the NCAA D-II Nationals in cross country. Race time for the women is 10:15 AM at the Angel Mounds Course in Evansville, Indiana. Last month, she became only the seventh runner to ever make First Team All-Conference all four years in a bobcat uniform. Two weeks later, she made even bigger history, racing to a second place finish in the Atlantic Region…the highest finish ever in league history, male or female.
Pineault’s journey has been a winding and sometimes bumpy road, but she has been on five Wesleyan title teams (Three in track and two in cross country), and has produced her share of records. The Morgantown, West Virginia native has always danced to her own beat, and has made an indelible mark on the program’s history.
Veteran head coach Jesse Skiles recruited Pineault to Wesleyan, and she was a recruit of significance for several reasons not related to running. Skiles has been trying to recruit the Morgantown area his entire career, usually to no avail. He had former Bobcat standouts such Lucas Greza and Anne Harman from MoTown, and was able to get Pineault and her Morgantown High teammate Zoey Vilasuso in the Fall of 2014.
“Most all of the Morgantown High and University High kids either go to WVU or Marshall or some other D-I school. I wanted to do my own thing and do something different. I had been a part of a bigger town, and experienced a bigger college town. It would not have been in my best interest to be at a bigger place,” Pineaultsaid. “Wesleyan stood out to me early, and it became my top choice. It was the best decision for me personally.”
Morgantown High head coach Mike Ryan was also instrumental in the move, giving Skiles and his program a positive endorsement. A lot of championships have followed.
“Coach Ryan is a fellow Kanawha County native, and I have known him a long time, and trust his judgement,” Skiles said. “He told me early in the process that Syd would probably be a better fit at a small school.”
Pineault made an immediate impact on the Bobcat program. She placed sixth in the MEC cross country championships as a freshman, and has added a third place and second place finish since. She has won the steeplechase every year, and is the school record holder in that event.
In the Atlantic Region, she been all-region twice, placing 17th in 2015, and 10th in the 2016…the highest finish ever for the program. She has been an NCAA Provisional Qualifier in the steeplechase, and has earned Academic All-America.
Along the way, she has been involved in her sorority, and was a nominee and marched in the recent Homecoming festivities. She was able to march with her counterpart, the number one runner on the guys’ team Matt Dearth.
Pineault’s sister Hannah runs for Akron University in the Mid-American Conference. She is currently a sophomore for the Zips.
Pineault has also had a few missteps along the way. She has been suspended twice by Skiles for off the track mistakes, but she states she has learned some valuable lessons along the way.
“I have a tremendous support system with the girls on our team, and Coach Skiles has always been there for me,” Pineault said. “Coach has been really upset with me at times, but even when he has punished me, he has taken the time find out what the underlying issues were that were going on in my life…and helped me take steps to get better. I would not have had the career I have had if not for this coach, and these teammates.”
Pineault also has one of the league’s best nicknames…”Syd Money.” She signs her emails to Coach Skiles as “$yd.”
“Syd is going to be a tough one to let go,” Skiles conceded. “She has been the face of our program around the state in recent years…I always love to talk politics with her dad, and Syd is good friends with my daughter. She is going to be a neat pickup for whatever company gets her in their marketing department. I can see her always being ‘Syd Money.”
“When I was a freshman, I told some people that I wished I had a cool nickname like some of the other kids on the team,” Pineault said. “Whit (former Bobcat, and MEC MVP Nathan Whitacre) started calling me that, and it has stuck. I like it.”
Throughout her career, Syd has been a “money” performer for the program. Hopefully, this Saturday she can have another big race against the nation’s best.