As Northwest cross country prepares for the upcoming indoor track and field season after the NCAA Division II Central Region meet Nov. 17, one runner has a different task in front of him.
Both the men’s and women’s teams’ seasons were ended at the regional meet in Joplin, but junior Karim Achengli extended his season by qualifying for the NCAA Championships. Achengli finished second out of 189 competitors with a school record time of 30:04.6 in the 10,000-meter run.
Aside from Achengli, the results for the Bearcats mimicked the season as a whole with only four of the 14 runners being upperclassmen. The youth gives coach Nick Gibson plenty to look forward to as the runners gain more experience throughout the remainder of their college career.
“I’m really excited for the future, especially since we have a really young team on both sides (men and women) for the most part,” Gibson said. “We return a lot of people who will be key contributors to us for the next couple of years.”
Despite being outnumbered by the young runners, the three upperclassmen on the women’s side, seniors Maria Mostek, Katie Bush and Mikayla Engeman all finished in the top five for Northwest. Mostek led the group taking 58th with a 23:04.2 in the 6,000-meter run. Bush finished 68th with a 23:09.1 and Engeman snagged 94th at 23:42.2.
The women’s team overall finished 13th out of 35 teams with a score of 382. On the men’s side, the lone upperclassman was Achengli and sophomore Max Martin finished as the No. 2 runner for the Bearcats with a time of 32:32.3, good for 76th place.
Freshmen Jacob Norris, Zach Staples and Zach Kush rounded out the top five for the men's team. Sophomores Tucker Dahle and Layne Worman rounded out the runners for the men as the third through seventh slots for the Bearcats; all finished within a minute of each other.
A close finish resembles the family-like bond the team has made throughout the year. Impacts of having a close-knit group has paid dividends even in the weekly practices.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned from this season is how much treating your teammates like family can have an impact on the day-to-day grind of practicing,” Dahle said.
The men finished 17th out of 28 teams with a total of 450 points, just 11 points form Central Missouri for 16th place at 439. While the numbers may not impress, Martin said the final meet of the season was a good step.
“The team and myself both took a positive step forward from conference,” Martin said. “I would say everyone definitely put it all out there for our last meet.”
While the rest of the cross country team prepares for the indoor season, Achengli has a chance to be the first national champion for Northwest and the first all-American since 1997. Gibson said while Achengli is not a very vocal individual, it is the example he sets that leads the team.
“He’s not a very talkative guy, but he does a great job showing the guys what it takes to be a really good runner,” Gibson said. “He does the right things. He eats well, gets a lot of sleep, and he gets all of his runs in. Karim is just someone that they can look up to.”