The women’s cross country team has two goals: stay healthy and win big.
“If our team can stay healthy and keep doing all the right things outside of practice, we’re going to be really strong,” senior Kayla Crusham said.
Head Coach Jenny Severns said she is pleased with her team.
“The season has been what I hoped for,” Severns said. “We have a lot of new people; Kayla is our only returning top-seven runner so you don’t know for sure what to expect, but everyone has come through
and done a really great job.”
The team has finished strongly in each of its first three events this year, showing steady improvement. In their first meet in Memphis, Tenn., where they finished eighth the year before, the women improved to a fifth place finish out of 25 teams. Two weeks later, the team competed in Edwardsville, Ill., where four Murray State runners placed in the top 10.
On Oct. 1 in Louisville, Ky., the team continued improving by finishing third out of 32 teams and showing one of its best performances in history at the Louisville competition. Crusham said the team’s last competition will positively affect the rest of the season.
“We’re going into this next meet really strongly after we placed third in Louisville,” Crusham said. “We all ran really well as a team and that’s good going forward because conferences will be a team effort.”
Crusham, who came to Murray State from Hebron, Ky., is enjoying her final season as a student-athlete. She began on a basketball team her freshman year in high school and as the season wound down, her coach encouraged her to run track in the offseason to stay in shape. Having played sports most of her life, she saw running as a punishment and was not all too excited to join the track team. However, as she began getting into track her coach pushed her to keep running and she soon joined the cross country team as well.
“From that point on it was a learning process and a lot of hard work,” Crusham said. “I never thought I was going to run cross country, and definitely haven’t been running since I was little, but here I am now.”
Crusham said she is excited to continue with her final season.
“Cross country-wise, because as most people don’t realize, there is a difference between cross country and track; I’m excited for my last conference championship,” Crusham said. “I think we can do some really special things as a team and as individuals. I just want to leave it all out there and do as well as I can.”
Unlike Crusham, Severns knew from early on she wanted to be involved with cross country.
“I always ran cross country and I knew in undergrad that I wanted to be a coach so I picked a major that would allow me to be a high school coach as well,” Severns said. “Then I went to grad school and realized that I didn’t want to do that and I thought I would just try to coach college.”
Severns is looking forward to the remainder of the season, she said.
“I’m excited to watch people improve and continue to get better,” Severns said. “I’m also really excited to beat people who don’t think we should beat them. I want to beat people who don’t expect us to. That’s what’s really fun to me.”
The family atmosphere within the team is what Severns said she likes best about coaching.
“I love them all,” Severns said about her athletes. “They make me mad and crack me up sometimes. They’re like my kids.”
The team will run full-speed ahead into Saturday’s Evansville Invitational in Evansville, Ind., followed by the OVC championships on Oct. 29 in Richmond, Ky.