By Katherine Sullivan, Staff Writer
After competing in their first race of the season at the OCU Land Run last weekend, the Men’s and Women’s Cross Country team members say they are ready to continue improving to compete at the heightened level that the MIAA has to offer.
Read on for a glance into both teams’ plans for the season.
Women’s Cross Country
After placing fifth of 13 teams at the OCU Land Run, finishing above two MIAA competitors in team standings, the Women’s Cross Country team has found where it must improve for a successful season.
At the OCU Land Run, the teams average time was 21:07.4, much higher than last year’s opening average of 15:51.
Coach Josh Schepis accounts slower race times than normal to weather and difficulty when it comes to training.
“Our biggest challenge at this time is the heat,” Schepis said. “It is really hard to put in max effort and to get in good work when we are battling the elements more than ourselves… Times weren’t as fast as what we thought they would be, but it was really hot and the women’s team placed fifth, so not a bad start.”
In addition to fighting the heat, the team is also facing leg injuries among the top five runners.
“There is a big gap [in times] between our top five runners and the six, seven and eight… We need to get our top five healthy and keep them healthy, then we will be better,” Schepis said.
The team also faced a change in leadership and leadership style this year following the graduation of leader Clara Lane.
Juniors Lauren Nutting and Spencer Jacobson along with senior Klair Gibson now stand as the leaders of the team.
“Our leaders this year are not vocal, but they make up for that with hard work,” Schepis said. “The best thing they do is lead by example, coming in ready to go every day.”
Freshman Caroline Williams said she appreciates the leadership style of this group.
“We have a lot of upperclassmen that are working with the freshmen to push them to be the best that they can be,” Williams said. “We all get to run together and help each other hit our goal times… I think that has helped a lot.”
The women’s team has a goal in mind for the year that matches the tune of many teams this year, and that is to show the MIAA what Newman has to offer.
“People don’t really know what to expect from a private Catholic school,” Williams said. “I hope we can show everyone that they need to expect some competition this year and for years to come.”
Men’s Cross Country
The men’s team will face a new set of challenges this year because of the young group that will be competing. Of the top six runners for the team, four are freshmen.
The team placed eighth out of 11 at the OCU Land Run last weekend.
“Our results were a little disappointing, but we are really young,” Schepis said. “Out of our top six, four are freshmen. This was their first college race and their first race at this distance, so they were intimidated in the first mile.”
After losing the top two runners for the team, Junior Alejandro Ultreras stands as a leader. Ultreras finished with a time of 21:25.6 at the OCU Land Run.
“With new leadership in the team, the chemistry has been far better,” Ultreras said. “We set the tone to work hard and more collectively as a team.
Schepis said he agrees that the team chemistry will push improvement among the runners.
“The boys are a really close group,” Schepis said. “They really enjoy each other’s company on runs and they are working hard with each other for each other.”
Although the results of the OCU Land Run did not meet expectations, the team looks to progress and improve.
“We were ranked last in the pre-season polls for the MIAA Conference and I hope by the end of the season, our team can prove these polls wrong,” Ultreras said. “I also hope everyone runs to their full potential… so we can set ourselves up for success at the MIAA Conference meet.”
The next race for both teams is Saturday at the Hastings Invite in Hastings, Nebraska.
PHOTO: Courtesy Photo. Newman Athletics.