Cross-Country camaraderie, sights set on victory

Story by Tierra Reese, Contributing writer

The Murray State cross-country team welcomes 13 new faces to the 2016-17 roster heading into its season opener, Sept. 3, at Belmont.

The new roster consists of ten freshmen for the women’s team and three for the men’s.

Graduate student Ali Hester, from Yorkville, Illinois, considers herself one of the leaders on this year’s team. Hester mentions goals for herself and for her team during her final season at Murray State.

  “We have a huge chance of winning conference this year, but we all have to be on the same page and really stay dedicated throughout the entire season together,” Hester said. “That’s what I want since this is my last season running. To win conference as a team would be absolutely amazing.”

Hester desires for this year’s team to bond more than before, as she believes this is the strongest team she has seen so early in the season. Hester wants to play her part as a positive leader to help herself and her teammates stay motivated and to remember what they want to achieve this year. 

“We’re growing as a team, our size has grown. So, just having the support from your own teammates too is really important,” Hester said. “Outside of practice, doing things as a team, whether it’s pasta dinners or whatever, I think that would bring us closer as a team.”

Head Coach Jenny Swieton is excited about the new talent and plans to rely heavily on the chunk of juniors on the team in order to distribute the weight evenly while the freshmen players become accustomed to the collegiate level.

“Sometimes, it is really hard for a senior to help with the freshmen because they know they’ll be gone next year, where at least with a junior, they’ll be here two years with all of the freshmen so we’ll look for the juniors to really lead the freshmen,” Swieton said.

Gavin Galanes, junior, from Saint Charles, Missouri, praises Swieton for looking out for him during his athletic career at Murray State.

“She definitely knows how I think best and she probably knows my training style better than any of my teammates, so she really tries to personalize my training,” Galanes said. “She helps me a lot with my racing mentality and she helps me stay positive and calm when I’m feeling really stressed about running and school.”

Galanes sat out last year with injuries but is back to compete this year as a leader for the men’s team with goals in mind for himself and the team.

“Personally, I was injured last year so I’m definitely looking to improve a lot this year time-wise and place-wise and meets, especially OVC,” Galanes said. “We took a huge step last year, we got sixth at conference, which was big for the program and we just want to keep that trend going and keep improving.”

Galanes set his personal best time for the 5K, 8K and 10K meets and said he wishes to bypass those times this season.

“I ran mid 25s last year for my 8K and I really just want to improve from last year. Ultimately, in my college career I want to run under 25 for the 8K,” Galanes said. “If I don’t obtain that this year, hopefully I will next year.”

Vallery Korir, junior from Iten, Kenya, also had to sit out a year for the 2015-2016 season but Swieton said she is one of the strongest runners on the women’s team. Teammate Hester said she is excited that Korir is back to compete this season. 

“It’s a lot better this season with her added,” Hester said. “She’s been working very hard at practices. She is going to be a big piece to our puzzle and hopefully she will know that she is important to our team by the time that conference comes because we’ll need her.”

Swieton, along with the rest of the team, said they are excited to see what this season has in store for them.