CHENEY, Wash. - The Lewis-Clark State College women’s and men’s cross country teams battled to earn fifth and sixth-place finishes, respectively, at the Inland Northwest Cross Country Challenge Saturday.
Racing against familiar competition, the LC women scored 108 points, which put them within 15 points of both third-place Eastern Washington and fourth-place Whitworth. Gonzaga finished runner-up in the race to University of Calgary, which tallied only 44 points.
Led by junior Kelsey Klettke, the Warriors’ performance was strong. Klettke finished third overall with a time of 18:21.3, just 11 seconds behind first-place finisher Amy Kolin of host school Eastern Washington.
“I was pleased and a little bit surprised with the women,” LCSC coach Mike Collins said. “Kelsey [Klettke] was again in front, but more importantly the pack behind her was real solid. We had a tough training week and trained through the meet, so I am surprised we ran that well.”
Behind Klettke, only 40 seconds separated the No. 2 through No. 8 LC finisher. Amy Watkins led the pack and finished the 5-kilometer course in 19:34.4 to finish 27th, and she was followed by Madison Randall who finished 31st (19:41.8), Stephanie Shuel who finished 33rd (19:43.7), Shaelie Edwards who finished 35th (19:45.4), Chelsey Leighton who finished 36th (19:46.1), Jessie Gulsvig who finished 38th (19:50.3) and rounding out the pack Francis Rojas who came in 48th (20:14.0).
As a result of their strong showing against quality competition, Collins said the women have a chance to regain ground in the polls this week, after having slipped seven spots so far this season.
On the men’s side LC earned sixth-place with 125 points, which was only 11 points behind fourth-place finisher Whitworth. Calgary recorded 32 points to claim victory, followed by Gonzaga in second-place with 62 points and Washington State in third-place with 84 points.
The tenth-ranked Warrior men put forth several encouraging performances despite missing four of their top-seven finishers from the Willamette Invite two weeks ago, including No. 1 runner Dave Marks. The men’s team was led by Senior Chris McConnell, who finished 14th overall with a personal-best time of 25:24.3.
“Chris’s workouts have been great, and he is coming into peak form,” Collins said. “He is a mature runner who came on strong at the end of the season last year, following an injury, to lead the team at nationals.”
Consistently near the top of the LC pack, Sean Huey finished 25th and Fernando Esperanza finished 31st with times of 25:40.3 and 25:53.4, respectively. Seizing the opportunity, freshmen Hayden Randall and Taylor Galusha finished No. 4 and No. 5 for LC to score for their team for the first time as collegiate runners.
“Today’s race put a couple of guys in a position where they had to step up, and Randall and Galusha did,” Collins said.