Racer cross-country sprinted into action last weekend at the Memphis Twilight Classic in Germantown, Tenn.
Though rain and lightning pushed back the start of the race by two hours, the Racer women recorded a strong finish running forth out of 21. The men had a slower start to the season finishing 17th out of 21.
The women ran a 5K, while the men ran a four mile course.
Freshman Abbie Simmonds-Ashbee from East Armstead, England was the top finisher for the women’s team, crossing the finish line in eighth place with a time of 19:03.93. Junior Carolyne Tanui from Eldoret, Kenya finished 12th with a time of 19:25.68.
For the men’s team Lucas Prather from Mahomet, Ill. was the top finisher. The freshman finished 50th with a time of 22:20.01. The next finisher was freshman Jarrod Koener from Champaign, Ill. He ran 22:52.26 and finished 71st.
Sophomore Abbie Oliver said the race was a different experience because of the storm delay.
“We didn’t get to race until late at night and the course was very muddy,” Oliver said. “I don’t think it went too bad given the conditions.”
Freshman Lucas Prather said he thought the storm might have gotten into the runner’s heads, but said the team’s good attitude helped them tough it out.
Men and women’s coach Jenny Severns said she primarily wanted to use this meet as a gauge to see how both teams would run.
“Everybody looked good in practice but it’s hard to tell until you see them race, “ Severns said.
The race did show her where the teams were at and highlighted some strengths and weaknesses to work on.
“I think typically at the first competition you learn more about your team and let it go from there,” Severns said. “It was good in that aspect and there were definitely some bright sides, like the boys beating Austin Peay, which they have not done since I’ve been here. The girls finished fourth which was exciting and Abbie Ashbee-Simmonds did so well as a freshman.”
Severns said she saw the storm affect her runners and sees that as a potential team weakness.
“They are a really young team and maybe they allowed it to affect them more than they should have,” Severns said. “It was definitely a learning experience and hopefully something they will grow from. I would rather that happen in the first meet of the year than towards the end.”
Severns also hopes to see her team push their own personal limits and improve their mental toughness.
“It is supposed to hurt,” Severns said, “so we have to embrace that fact and fight through it. We will go a long way if we can get better at that.”
She is proud of how supportive her team is for each other, including the new freshmen. They are already making their presence known in the group and in races.
“They are helping out right away as far as contributing in the races and in workouts,” Severns said. “They support each other. I’m actually amazed at how much they do after only a few weeks.”
The goal for cross-country is the same every year Severns said. She wants everyone to improve and give everything they have.
“If we get out there and run as hard as we can everyday, then the results will come,” Severns said. “Hopefully that will be significantly better than our finishes last year.”
The teams have this weekend off but will return to action September 15 in Nashville, Tenn. at the Commodore Classic.
Story by Jaci Kohn//The News