With the summer scorch leaving Murray State, fall weather brings the cross country team back into the picture.
The men’s team kicked off the 2011 season at the Memphis Twilight Classic in Memphis, Tenn., where they finished 21st place out of 22.
“Because it’s the start of the season, we have a lot of new guys on the team,” Jenny Severns, head coach, said. “They’re still learning the ropes. I think it was a good lesson for the boys on how to run longer distances and keep a good pace.”
In high school, cross country meets are typically a 5K or 3.1 miles long. However, in collegiate meets, the distance is upward of 8K, or 5 miles long. Severns said the change in distance is quite a transition.
“The guys just have to pace themselves and keep doing what they’re doing,” she said.
The team is bringing back upperclassmen such as junior Andy Pack, who ran a season-best time of 21:27:55 at the Mid-American Opener in 2008. New freshmen runners include Tyler Inmann, Ryan Johnson and Ryan Miller. Severns said the freshmen runners are fitting in with the rest of the team.
“The boys have really good teamwork, and the freshmen are doing just fine,” Severns said.
The team’s next meet is today at the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Cross Country Challenge in Edwardsville, Ill.
Also led by Severns, the women’s team is off to a quick start with an already impressive fifth out of 25 overall finish at Memphis, overcoming such schools as the University of the Cumberlands, Delta State University and Blue Mountain College.
“I was really happy with how the girls did (at the Memphis Twilight Challenge),” Severns said. “Everybody raced really well.”
This season, the team is using the strategy of running as a pack to keep a good pace and stay together, Severns said.
The women’s team is packing a punch this season with sophomore Rebecca Hbetamu who was named the first OVC Player of the Week this season after a great debut at the Memphis Twilight Classic. As a transfer student from Central Arizona Community College, Hbetamu is in her first year on the team. Before coming to Murray State, Hbetamu earned All-American honors in cross country and track.
A runner to watch this season is senior Kayla Crusham. During the 2009-10 season, Crusham competed exclusively in distance events earning the best indoor time at the EIU Mega Meet, with a blazing time of 11:33.27 in the 3,000-meter indoor event. In the 2008 season, she was on the OVC commissioners honor roll.
Crusham said the team has put forth much hard work and effort through their long practices two to three times per week.
“They can get pretty hard,” Crusham said. “They’re held at a racing pace, so with distance there is also speed.”
With constant hard work applied by the team, Crusham said she enjoys being a Racer.
“I love wearing that blue and gold,” she said.
The team’s next meet is also at the SIU-E Cross Country Challenge today.