Head Coach Jenny Severns has a positive outlook for the rest of the cross country season after the August 29 meet at the Belmont Opener.
“I think Belmont was a good start and a good meet for a lot of the newcomers,” Severns said, “there has been a big improvement in everyone and I believe it shows how the rest of the season will improve.”
The men’s and women’s cross country teams started their seasons at the Belmont Opener in Nashville, Tenn., with the women finishing eighth out of the 12 teams and men finishing sixth out of the 12 teams.
One of the top runners, Alicyn Hester, junior from Yorkeville, Ill., ran a minute faster than she was last year at this time. She said this is a self-improvement goal she’s been working on and she hopes everyone on the team can feel how good it is to meet that goal.
“On not just the women’s side but the men’s side too, all of our guys did really well,” Severns said, “I feel everyone will continue to improve throughout the semester.”
Individually, the women were led by Meagan Smith who finished 36th with a time of 19:02.70. She was followed by Alicyn Hester in 41st, Abbie Oliver in 56th and Emma Gilmore in 57th. Emani Griffin, Kati Heil and Emily Flaherty rounded out the team at 68th, 73rd and 74th, respectively.
The men were led by Gavin Galanes who finished 36th with a time of 16:07.52. He was closely followed by Cole Cisneros at 43rd. Lucas Prather finished 56th, Mark Ventura 58th, Evan Staviski 59th, Neil Yockey 63rd, and Jarred Koerner at 64th place overall.
The biggest competition this season is Eastern Kentucky University for both men’s and women’s teams. Eastern Kentucky has one of the top 20 cross country teams in the nation and Severns says she’d like to see the teams at least place in the top six.
“The best thing about this team is they are all really good kids,” Severns said. “They support each other and are competitive in the best ways. They are willing to work hard and put forth the effort to meet their personal and team goals.”
Hester said everyone will hold their ground this semester. While coming in as a freshman or newcomer can be intimidating, she hopes they are inspired at each race to stay confident.
“There are a lot of people who did a lot more this summer to prepare than what they’ve done in the past and I think we’ll see a lot of progression and breakthroughs,” Severns said. “The good thing is every meet will give us something to celebrate. I can’t wait to see the people who worked so hard to get the performances they deserve.”
The Racers’ ultimate goal for this season is to bring home the OVC Championship.
The team will travel to the EIU Walt Crawford Open at Eastern Illinois today. On Sept. 19, the team will travel to compete in the Austin Peay Invitational hosted by Austin Peay State. The Notre Dame Invitational Oct. 3-4 is their next competition. The regular season will end when the team competes at the Bradley Classic Oct. 16-17, which will be held at the Newman Golf Course in Peoria, Ill.
The OVC Cross Country Championship will be on Nov 1 at Oxford Lake & Recreation Area hosted by Jacksonville State.
Story by Kelsey Randolph, Contributing writer