Men’s and women’s cross country have this weekend off to prepare for the OVC Championships hosted by Jacksonville State.
The teams are coming into the tournament on a strong run after each team set multiple personal bests at the Pre-NCAA and Fast Cats Invitational last weekend.
Freshman Abbie Ashbee-Simmonds ran the 6K in 20:50.5 at Pre-NCAA to finish in 18th place. She set a career best and broke the program record for the 6K.
Freshman Jarrod Koerner was the first Racer to cross the finish line for the men’s team. He finished with a time of 28:20.80 at the Fast Cats Invitational and placed 33rd.
Head Coach Jenny Severns said the team is working on being well rested for the championship races. They want to make sure all the kinks are sorted out so the team can perform to their best ability on Saturday.
“The fitness is there, we are not going to get a lot more fit between now and then,” she said. “It’s just about getting rested and getting all of them taken care of and working on the mental side of it. You know really wanting it and in there with a lot of fire.”
On the women’s side the top five teams all have a chance to win the race.
“Like if you have a little bit of an off day you are going to be fifth, that is all there is to it,” Severns said.
“It’salways a little nerve wrecking going in because you work harder, we are not a fifth place team. I feel like we work harder than that. But unless we do well and have a good day that could happen.”
Last season the team finished in fifth place at the OVC Championships and in 27th place at the NCAA Regionals. This year the women’s team was picked in a poll during the preseason to finish in fifth again. Eastern Illinois was picked to win overall.
The men’s team is young, which could affect them going into the OVC Championships. The majority of the team are freshmen. There are nine runners on the team and only three have previous experience in OVC action.
“I think everybody is just excited to go and do better than we have done in the past and make an improvement,” Severns said. “I think they are in a really good position to do that. So for them we are just worried about keeping the excitement up.”
The team finished in 10th place at the OVC Championships last season. In the pre-season the men’s team was picked to finish in 11th at the championships. Eastern Kentucky is the team to beat this year.
Senior Bridget Stichnot, who is coming back from an injury, said she will continue to try and get fit while the rest of the team is going to get rested and ready to go.
She said this year will be tough because there will be a lot of good teams and a lot of competition at the championships.
“I think we are learning to thrive under the competition and get out after it,” she said. “As long as we can get out after it I think we will be good to go.”
The OVC Championship races are Saturday in Jacksonville, Ala.
Story by Jaci Kohn, Assistant Sports Editor