The men’s and women’s cross country teams kicked off their seasons Saturday, coming out with a first place win for the women’s team at the St. Catherine University Mini Meet. The men placed fourth at the Les Duke Invite in Grinnell, Iowa.
Women’s team hopes to win conference title
The women’s team started off the year with an impressive showing Saturday. Sophomore Taylor Berg took first in the women’s 4K event with a dominating performance over the rest of the field. The other Tommie runners were just as good, earning 15 out of 15 possible points to grab the all-around victory.
The women’s team started the year ranked third in the Division III preseason Central regional poll. Expectations for the program are high as it returns four of its top five runners from the 2009 season, and returns senior captain Raynee Degrio, who was forced to sit out last year due to a stress fracture in her lower right shin.
One of the main obstacles the women face is the loss of graduating seniors Kelly Russ, a four-time, all-conference performer, and Al Johnson, a four-year team veteran.
“We have two spots to fill, but we have a really strong freshmen class,” DeGrio said. “We have such a deep team this year. It’s always been one of our strengths and that depth will definitely be one of the keys to winning a conference title.”
Coach Joe Sweeney said the team hopes to win the MIAC conference.
“Our goal is always to contend for the conference championship and advance to nationals,” Sweeney said. “Our teams have a history of success and if I had goals any lower than that, they’d be unacceptable.”
The women’s team is set to compete for its fourth conference championship in the last five years, and is hoping to get back to nationals after missing an at-large bid last year by a single point.
Underclassmen fill void for men’s team
The team finished fourth overall at the Les Duke invite Saturday, and All-American junior Ben Sathre, who placed 26th at nationals last year, captured the individual title.
“We could have done better today, but the meet was really encouraging,” said junior Tyler Iverson. “Our team could have placed higher, but a few of our freshmen performed really well.”
The men’s team began the year ranked sixth in the Division III preseason Central regional poll. The team hopes to ride the momentum from its nationals berth last year, where it finished 19th.
The men’s team’s challenge is finding runners to fill open spots left by graduating seniors. The team lost three of its top five runners from last year. This season, Sathre, Iverson, junior Crawford Hubbell and senior Seth Rosvold are all expected to make major contributions to the team’s success.
The team will also need underclassmen to help fill the void, Iverson said.
“We have a lot of incoming freshman,” Iverson said. “The difficult thing will be getting them adapted to the college atmosphere. We have a good shot at nationals again, but we’ll need some people to step up if we’re going to do well at the end of the year.”
The men continue their season with the Buggold open Oct. 1st in Colfax,Wis.
John Bealka can be reached at email@example.com.