Hopes high heading into conference championships

Sophomore Chase Darnell runs at the Fast Cats Invitations. The men’s team placed seventh at the Fast Cats Invitational. The women placed 12th at the Pre-NCAA meet in Louisville, Ky. || Photo courtesy of Sports Information

Sophomore Chase Darnell runs at the Fast Cats Invitations. The men’s team placed seventh at the Fast Cats Invitational. The women placed 12th at the Pre-NCAA meet in Louisville, Ky. || Photo courtesy of Sports Information

The cross country teams are heading into the OVC Championships on a high note. Eight runners ran personal bests at tournaments on Saturday.

The women’s team competed at two different meets over the weekend and most of the team competed at the Pre-NCAA meet in Louisville, Ky., while four runners, along with the men’s team, went to Owensboro, Ky., to compete at the Kentucky Wesleyan Fast Cats Invitational.

“I think we did pretty well,” said Head Coach Jenny Severns. “We had some really good high lights and some things we need to work on, which I feel like is most every meet. Abbie Ashbee-Simonds broke the school record in the 6K, which was really good at Pre-Nats. Then we had a few kids run big (personal records) at Fast Cats, so that was nice. I think it was a good learning meet, a good stepping stone for OVC.”

At the Pre-NCAA meet the women’s team finished 12th out of 26 teams. Freshman Abbie Ashbee-Simmonds ran a 20:50.5 to finish in 18th place. Ashbee-Simmonds set a career best and broke the program record in the 6K.

Junior Carolyne Tanui set a career high and had the third fastest time in school history. She finished in 61st with a time of 22:27.7. Senior Rebecca Hbetamu set a season high with a time of 22:37.4. She finished 78th.

Sophomore Abbie Oliver, sophomore Brittany Bohn, freshman Leah Krause, senior Bridget Stichnot and freshman Jacquelyn Thate all set career best times and junior Anna Grimes ran a season high time.

At the Fast Cats Invitational, two runners ran career high times. Freshman Abby Baker posted a time of 20:30.50 and finished 40th. Freshman Heatherly Paschall finished in 53rd with a time of 23:33.90.

Senior Bridget Stichnot said the season has gone better than anyone could have expected. She is coming back from an injury and at the Pre-NCAA she took over a minute off of her last 6K. She is happy with how her team is working together and supporting each other at this point in the season.

“As a team everybody is getting faster,” she said. “We are running more as a group now. And the people who were in the back of the group are now pushing up and catching up to the front. So everything is coming together at the right time.”

The men finished in seventh at the Fast Cat Invitational. Freshman Jarrod Koerner was the first Racer to cross the finish line, finishing with a time of 28:20.80 and placing 33rd. Sophomore Jordan Altholf ran the course in 28:44.40 and finished 42nd.

“We actually had a little bit of an off day on the men’s side,” Severn said. “A few guys were sick and stuff like that. It probably wasn’t our best performance. But they learn from it. We just had a work out and they killed it. So I am pretty excited to see what they can do at OVC.”

Two runners for the men’s team set record times. Freshman Griffin Kelley finished the race with a career best time of 33:47.40. Zach Calvert finished with a time of 35:21.10, a season best for him.

Severns said she was proud of the way her team ran over the weekend and was pleased with all of the personal records they set. She appreciates their attitudes and determination.

“They are a determined set of kids,” she said. “They really want to be good and that is the most important thing. Training and all that stuff is secondary to the want.”

The teams have this weekend off to prepare for the OVC Championships on Oct. 27.

Jaci Kohn, Assistant Sports Editor