Junior runner Karim Achengli finished his first season at Northwest in the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field National Championship 10,000-meter run, before a lost shoe ended his season with an unexpected 12th place finish.
Now Achengli seeks to put aside the minor hiccup from last Spring and close out the 2018 Bearcat cross country season back in nationals. He has been Northwest’s No. 1 runner all season and has battled through early season injuries to get back in end-of-season shape.
The first step on Achengli’s path is the MIAA Championships Nov. 3 in Emporia, Kansas. It is the same course Northwest competed at Oct. 19 in the ESU Homecoming invite. Having the conference meet on the same course it last competed on will ease the stress of the meet.
“They ran pretty well on that course, even for as crappy (muddy) as it was,” coach Nick Gibson said. “Going into the conference race, if it is just as crappy they know they can still run well on it, but if it is better conditions, they can run even better.”
The size of the ESU invite allowed for the meet to serve as a simulated practice with 55 runners combined for both the men and women. Using the meet to gauge how the course will run is something Achengli took total advantage of on his way to a first place finish in the 8K race.
“It is a good chance to challenge the field and see what is the place to push,” Achengli said. “It is an advantage to run there before conference with all the other teams.”
Following Achengli in the ESU invite were sophomores Max Martin in third place with a 27:50.3 and Tucker Dahle who rounded out the top five with a 28:27.7. Both the men and women took first place as teams, and the women's team managed a perfect score of 15 team points in the 6K, sweeping the top five positions.
Freshman Caroline Ross topped the results again for Northwest with a time of 20:07.8, edging out Senior Maria Mostek at 20:11.7 for first place. Seniors Katie Bush and Mikayla Engeman placed third and fourth with times of 20:12.7 and 20:19.4. Freshman Keely Danielson took a fifth place finish at 20:26.2.
The goals moving forward vary from athlete to athlete but for Gibson, it is clear what he wants to see at the conference meet from the team.
“We are expecting them to finish as high as they can,” Gibson said. “The goal is obviously to win it every year, but we have to be realistic sometimes and think about where we can finish, and I see being in the top five on both sides being in the realm of possibility.”
Achengli understands the impact of the MIAA meet and is seeking an even greater finish to his first on Northwest cross country.
“Last year I did well until nationals were I had an unfortunate accident with my shoe,” Achengli said. “I want to keep the same progress at least and do better at nationals, and that is my purpose this year.”
Losing shoes has been a tendency for Northwest recently as freshman Keely Danielson raced the Arkansas Chili Pepper festival with one shoe. No matter how many shoes the Bearcats run with, the goals for the end of the season are well within grasp.