Story by Tierra Reese, Contributing writer
At the 2016-17 season opener cross-country meet in Nashville, Tennessee, the Murray State women’s team finished in fourth place and the men in fifth at the Belmont Invitational on Sept. 3.
Vallery Korir, junior from Iten, Kenya, and Mason Swenson, freshman from Phoenix, both individually set personal record times and were added to the Racers All-Time list.
This meet was Swenson’s first race in her collegiate career. She said her transition from high school is exciting and wants to improve over the season.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better leeway into it. It was a good meet to start off with, and I was really happy with it,” Swenson said.
Swenson commends her teammates racing capabilities at this past opener and is optimistic that the team will do very well throughout the season. Swenson’s best time in the 5K run was 18 minutes, 28 seconds and she finished 15th individually.
“I thought we all ran really well for our first meet out. Everybody showed up prepared. We all raced pretty smart,” Swenson said, “I came out a little slower and then I was able to pick it up to hit that last mile as hard as I could and catch a lot of girls in the last mile.”
Korir also has said to have confidence in her teammates and herself about winning OVC Championship this season. After redshirting last year, Korir is back this season and set a personal record of 18 minutes, 10 seconds in the 5K run.
“I think I really did good compared to last year’s cross-country. Coming back from redshirt last year and it being my third time running cross-country ever in life, I think I did really well,” Korir said, “I learned cross-country is way different from track and you really have to be strong mentally because it’s hard.”
Mark Ventura, junior from Slade, Kentucky, is in the top five on the men’s cross-country team. After witnessing some of the results from the first meet, as a leader, Ventura said he has ambitious goals in mind for the team and himself during this season that he thinks can be achieved.
“We’ve never had this fast of a group since I’ve been here, so I’m excited to see how we compete in OVC because we definitely went into it better than last year,” Ventura said. “Something that we all did really well was working as a team. I’ve never ran with a teammate from the beginning to end.”
Head Coach Jenny Swieton of both men and women’s cross-country teams said that this season opener gave her great insight into how the season will go. Swieton, like her players, is more than hopeful that both teams will win the OVC Championship this year.
“We’re in the best place that we’ve ever been in and if there was ever a year to win, this would be the year,” Swieton said.
Swieton said overall she was impressed with how her athletes raced in the invitational and said the teams haven’t started in-depth training yet so, with more training, she is excited to see how far the team will go.
“It went really well. Probably the best we’ve started as a whole,” Swieton said. “We’re definitely a team that gets better as the season progresses. We’re just in the beginning stages of our training so it’s exciting to see them doing as well as they are without getting into the real meat of the training,”
Swieton, Korir and Swenson all have the main goal of winning the OVC Championship this season.
“I know the character of our kids and how much they want it and the good decisions they make outside of practice and I think that will always give us the one-up on other teams,” Swieton said.