By Mariah Pellino
They have been running fast, training hard, and preparing all season for their upcoming meet. The Clarke Men and Women’s Cross Country teams are awaiting the most anticipated race of their season: conference.
Their conference meet will take place on November fourth in Baldwin City Kansas. The results of this meet decide what teams and individuals will continue their seasons onto Nationals or which will come to an end. Although the meet is fast approaching, the anticipation of this meet has been building up over the course of many months for both the men’s and women’s team.
All sixteen cross country runners, under the coaching of Brooke Ferguson, have raced at five other competitive meets. These meets include: The Mustang Gallop, Luther All-American, Brisman-Lundeen Invite, Loras Invite, and their most recent race the Seminole Stampede.
The women’s team most impressive finish being 6th out of 17 teams at the Brisman-Lundeen Invite. The team, led by the strong junior Lauren Block, finished with a total of 188 points to earn them their impressive 6th place finish. Block placed 9th overall with a 5k time of 20:41. The second runner for the team was freshman Lauryn Pritchard running a time of 22:05 and was followed closely by junior Emily Reisenberg at 22:06. Sophomore Alex Branham finished in fourth for the Clarke pack coming in at a time of 23:26. The other contributors were freshman Mariah Pellino, senior Anna Cole, and freshman Annie Knobloch. The eighth member of the team, Sydney Hendricks did not race because of an illness.
Although Lauren Block had a great finish and an overall large contribution to the teams 6th place finish at the Brisman-Lundeen Invite, this isn’t the only accomplishment we have seen from Block this season.
This is Block’s first season back after time off from an injury. She reflects back on her achievements thus far:
“I think as an individual, finishing my first race was a turning point within itself. Being injured for over a year, I never thought the day would come where I could actually run a race, and placing made it even more bittersweet”
The first meet of the season, The Mustang Gallop, was were Block first individually placed this season, placing 9th out of 74 runners. Additionally to this 9th place finish, Block has also placed: 6th, 9th, and 19th at the team’s other competitive meets.
It is with the help of the team that Block has made these accomplishments. She is not alone in the outstanding efforts that have been put in by runners this season. Each and every member of the women’s and men’s team have been working hard the entirety of the season, pushing themselves in every race and at every practice.
Block agreeably states that it is through teamwork that the team has come this far and is going to be prepared for, conference.
“As a team, we are all so encouraging of each other on and off the course. No matter a good workout or bad, we’re always there keeping each other’s spirits up. Cross country is a hard sport, and add in the factors of being a college student, the stress levels can reach an all-time high. By making sure we’re all mentally and physically ready to race, we can ensure a successful conference race”.
The men’s team has also had their fair share of accomplishments this season. Their best finish as a team was also at the Brisman-Lundeen Invite. They finished 11th out of 22 teams with a total of 312 points. Coming in first for the Pride was senior Malik McCrary with a 6k time of 22:36. Close behind him was junior, Logan Fraker running a time of 22:59. Sophomore, Mike Aguilar took the third place finish for the team’s pack, finishing at a solid 23:44. The fourth finisher for the men’s team was sophomore Kevin Ockenfels running a time of 24:26. The other contributors to the team’s strong finish were freshmen Jimmy Slowik, Devin Dobbles, and Reide Gallaway. The eighth member of the team, Craig Stout, who has been battling minor injuries, did not participate in this race.
The Clarke men’s cross country team has shown tremendous progress over the span of this cross country season. A lot of their success this season can be credited to the growth in members for the men’s squad.
Back in 2015, the Clarke men’s cross country team consisted of only five members, which is just enough for them to race as a team. Since 2015, the men’s teams roster has grown to a total of eight members. This is a major positive change for the team as Stout adds:
“The team has gotten bigger. The more guys we have on a team, the more successful we will likely be. It’s nice going into practice knowing you have to bring your A game or you’ll get left behind”
They will be able to use this new advantage of more members to push one another during their next conference meet in a way they are not able to do previously. With only five runners in 2015, each member counted for the team’s score. Now they have to work together and push themselves to be in the top five that scores for the team.
With the anticipation at an utmost high, the excitement to see what the men and women’s cross country team will accomplish at their conference meet is overwhelming.
For some, this will be their last conference meet in their collegiate running careers. This goes for the seniors Anna Cole, Sydney Hendricks, Malik McCrary, and Craig Stout.
Hendricks reflected on her last four years as a runner and shared what she is thinking as her days as a college cross country runner nears to an end:
“I want to finish the season and my career strong. But I know I’ll be participating in races after XC and am excited to start that part of my running career. I will miss my teammates tremendously though. They make the hard days easier.”
Undoubtedly the women’s and men’s team will miss the efforts, positive energy, and dedication that the senior members offer.
Embracing their accomplishments and remembering how far they have come, both teams are more than ready for their conference meets. Coach Brooke Ferguson talked about her goals for the teams as they get ready for conference. She hopes that both teams continue to pack run, work up during their races, and finish in the top half of the conference meet.
Hendricks shared what she would want to say to her team in regards to conference,
“I would tell them to run our best, have confidence in ourselves, and leave it all on the course. At the end of the race all that truly matters is that we ran our hardest and gave it all we had.”