Young cross country team looks to impress
The 2019 season promises some big meets for Southeast Cross Country with experienced runners on both teams making returns.
The women placed second in last year’s Ohio Valley Conference Championship 5K behind Eastern Kentucky University with three runners in the top ten.
Kaitlyn Shea (17:36.7) and Sydney O’Brien (17:36.9) finished seventh and eighth respectively before graduating in December. At the same time Carli Knott (17:56.3) set a career-best time and finished tenth. Knott will be returning for her junior season with a Second Team All-OVC honor under her belt.
“Our women's team has been pretty lights out these last six years,” Head Coach Ryan Lane said. “Even though our team is younger, I see no reason we can't repeat what we did last year.”
The men’s team finished eighth in the OVC Championship 8K with EKU finishing on top. Two seniors return to the men’s team this season: David Plunkett and Griffin Bailey.
Plunkett was the top finisher for the Redhawks with a time of 25:47.2 which earned him 33rd place at the Championship. The men’s team competes against six OVC schools that have distance-only programs, making for a top-heavy race. Lane knows it's tough but wants the men to be the best team not dedicated solely to long distance.
“In track, those teams don't do as well, but on the cross country side they are very strong, so it's a little skewed,” Lane said. “We are really fighting with teams like Tennessee Tech and SIUE to be the best non-distance team.”
Both teams are adding depth this season with four incoming freshmen apiece. Hannah Eastman, Tayler Gudde, Brianna Payton and Mackenzie Pugh join the women’s club and Caleb Cornelius, Mark Crawford, Aaron Modrow and Kory Snyder join the men’s team.
Lane believes the added depth could help push the teams over the top in the coming years.
“As we improve our depth, we are going to try to pick off those teams that have a lot more scholarship money and roster spots than we do,” Lane said.
The team will not host a home meet — like last year — but will get a couple of opportunities to run on fresh courses and recruit while they are at it.
“We are running in Peoria in September on the Illinois State course the day before the high schools do,” Lane said. “So we’ll be able to put our markdown and show the highschoolers what we can do.”
The team will get a similar opportunity the week after at Missouri State University.
“It’s a good opportunity for recruiting and for our athletes to get experience against these local schools,” Lane said.
One of Lane’s big goals for the year is to help SEMO win the OVC Commissioner’s Cup, “a symbol of overall athletic excellence in Conference-sponsored championships,” according to the OVC website.
“With football and volleyball expected to do well, we could come out of the fall semester as the best athletic program in the conference, and I want us to be a part of that,” Lane said.
Murray State won the 2018-2019 cup with a record amount of points, while Southeast finished fifth behind Jacksonville State, Belmont and Austin Peay.
Cross country kicks off its season at the Saluki Invite in Carbondale on Aug. 30. The meet will include four other OVC schools.