LCSC cross country teams finish 14th and 22nd
KENOSHA, Wis. – The Lewis-Clark State College women’s cross country team enjoyed its second-best finish at the NAIA Cross Country National Championship when it finished 14th in the meet on Saturday.
The LCSC men also took part in the meet and wound up finishing 22nd in the team standings.
The Warrior women, ranked 14th in the nation, ran extremely well, according to LCSC coach Mike Collins. The problem was that many coaches believed Saturday’s race contained the toughest field in the history of the meet.
“The women ran really well today and their times were fast,” Collins said. “To give you an example, when Tausha (Kuzmic) and Lacey (Way) were All-Americans in 2002 (by finishing 16th and 17th at the national meet) their times were 19:03 and 19:04. Today, we had Kyli Astle run 18:46, Stephanie Shuel went 18:54 and Lindsay (Szybura) went 19:00 and they weren’t even in the top 40. That is a real good representation of how talented this field was.”
Astle, a junior from Shoshone, was the Warriors top finisher and placed 68th overall and 47th among scoring runners. The national meet featured several individual runners who qualified for the race. Although those runners counted in the individual race, they were taken out for the team scoring.
“It was a good race, and like coach, pretty fast too,” Astle said. “It was easier for me this year because I had run on the course before and it’s an advantage knowing the course. But the course was hard, kind of frozen today, and it made it really fast.”
Shuel, a freshman who won the Frontier Conference race two weeks ago, was 56th among scoring runners and 87th overall, while Szybura, a junior, was 64th among scoring runners and 96th overall. Rounding out the top five were junior Katja Pam-Loevslett in 19:23, and sophomore Jessie Gulsvig in 19:25. All seven runners competing for LCSC should be back next season.
“The big thing, and we talked about it with the girls, is that a number of them had never run on this course and you can never get a feel for it until you run on it,” Collins said. “I think that will really work in their favor next year. A couple of people have already asked about finishing in the top 10 next year. I tell them ‘Why are you stopping there?’ This is a group, with the right training and attitude, has a shot at a top-four finish and possibly winning it all. This group is as talented as any in the country.
Collins said the best finish by a Warrior team was in his second year as coach when the team was ninth back in the late 1990s. The Warriors have regular finished among the Top 25.
“We packed it up well and I’m not sure you could pick any one out of our group and say that they didn’t run well at all. That would just be a false statement,” Collins said. “They did what they needed to do today and ran well.”
The men’s finish was somewhat disappointing as the team had the goal of trying to break into the top 10 in the team standings.
“I think they would tell you the same thing – they are probably a little disappointed,” Collins said. “We had some high expectations and you don’t hit them, it’s disappointing. We ran faster than we did last year and our gap between 1 through 6 was the best it’s been all year.”
Collins said the problem for the men is that they got off to a slow start. The course, which is hilly and narrow, doesn’t allow for a lot of room to pass. And this year, there were 100-plus more runners than previous years.
“Each guy talked about how there was nowhere to pass people and how they had to run out into the trees to get around people,” Collins said. “That wastes a lot of energy. You’ve got to get out a bit faster at the start, and although that causes you to spend more energy, you have to be smart from a strategic standpoint.”
Senior Mickael Sopel was the Warriors’ top finisher in 106th place overall and 77th among scoring runners. He covered the 8-kilometer course in 26 minutes, 5 seconds. Sophomore Sean Huey was two places behind in 26:06, while junior Eric Tuwei and freshman Grant Eldridge were both timed in 26:29. Chris McConnell, a sophomore, was a second behind those two.
“I’m not disappointed in the effort, but we’re disappointed in the outcome,” Collins said. “We were in worse position at the 2-mile mark, so we did make up some ground. And this is a great group. We only have one senior in the top five (and two in the top seven), so we have a good group that is coming back.”
Collins said the temperature was in the low 20s during the race, but with little to no wind.
Alissa McKaig of Indiana Tech won the women’s race in a course record time of 16:41. Azusa Pacific, which placed three runners in the top 10, won its first women’s team title.
On the men’s side, Malone of Ohio won its second straight title by also placing three runners in the top 10. Aron Rono of second-place Azusa Pacific won the individual title for the second straight year at 23:45.
Team results – 1, Azusa Pacific 66. 3, Cedarville 97. 3, Ca St. San Marcos 154. 4, tie, Malone and Milligan 160. Area teams – 9, College of Idaho 300. 10, Simon Fraser 301. 14, Lewis-Clark State 368. 21, Concordia (Ore.) 507.
Overall winner – Alissa McKaig, Indiana tech, 16:42.
LCSC finishers – 47 (68th overall), Kyli Astle 18:46 56 (87), Stephanie Shuel 18:54. 64 (96), Lindsay Szybura 19:00. 99 (147), Katja Palm-Loevslett 19:23. 102 (152), Jessie Gulsvig 19:25. 125 (178), Tayler Harrington 19:35. 172 (260), Amanda Palmer 20:18.
Team results – 1, Malone 61. 2, Azusa Pacific 118. 3, Aquinas 194. 4, Southern Oregon 197. 5, Indiana Tech 245. Area teams – 9, Concordia (Ore.) 288. 20, College of Idaho 452. 22, Lewis-Clark State 474. 24, Simon Fraser 489.
Overall winner – Aron Rono, Azusa Pacific, 23:46.
LCSC finishers – 77 (106th overall), Mickael Sopel 26:05. 79 (108), Sean Huey 26:06. 105 (145), Eric Tuwei 26:29. 106 (147), Grant Eldridge 26:29. 107 (148), Chris McConnell 26:30. 117 (340), Adrian Ramirez 26:36. 155 (231), Jake Miller 27:19.