After an impressive first showing, particularly on the men’s side, Northwest cross country had another chance to showcase its talents at the Missouri Southern Stampede Sept. 21.
Ahead of the meet, the men found themselves ranked as the No. 19 team in Division II, per the USTFCCCA coaches’ poll. That marks the first time that the ‘Cats have been ranked in the top-20 during the season since 1997. Northwest was tabbed as No. 19 in the end of season rankings two seasons ago, but that’s nothing compared to being ranked this high in the middle of the season.
On the men’s side, the ‘Cats placed second overall in the meet, trailing 15 points behind No. 6 Missouri Southern. Junior Jhordan Ccope led the charge for Northwest in the 8,000 meters race with a time of 24:22.27, good enough for second overall in the individual part of the race. Ccope was accompanied by three other Bearcats in the top 16: juniors Augostine Lisoreng and Mike Lagat who placed sixth and sixteenth, respectively, and senior Karim Achengli, who placed eighth.
“I think both teams competed really well,” coach Nick Gibson said. “We’re still training really hard and our milage is really high — they’re running on some pretty tired legs. They went out and competed, and it showed at the end. … It’s just a testament to the work that they put in over the summer.”
In the midst of the event, Ccope set a new personal record. The junior transfer from Iowa Central Community College has noticed how different the work ethic is at the Division II level. Along with that, Ccope has seen the potential that lies ahead for the men.
“I think the men’s side is a really strong team,” Ccope said. “We’re working really hard every day for achieving our ultimate team goal.”
Despite the men’s team faring well at the meet, the women found themselves nearly polar-opposite, finishing in the bottom half of the results at 20th overall as a team.
The women were led in the 5,000 meters race by sophomore Caroline Ross. Ross finished with a total time of 18:42.73, fast enough for 42nd overall individually. Ross was accompanied by two other Bearcats within the top 200 of the race: sophomore Keely Danielsen (79th), junior Erinn Fitzgerald (137th) and freshman Lauren Graham (197th).
Much like Ccope, Ross’s time at the meet was good enough for a new personal record, something that came as a shock after the meet.
“It was really awesome,” Ross said. “Nobody was really expecting it. … It’s a fast course, but I don’t think we expected it to be that fast. It was really just, mentally, us going out there and saying that, ‘We’re going to fight today and we’re going to do this.’”
The women haven’t gotten out to quite the start that they wished for. The 20th place finish was added onto a third-place finish in the Bearcat Open to start the season. Despite the slow start, Ross, along with Gibson, believes that everything will pay off for the women as they get deeper into the season.
“There are days it’s harder,” Ross said. “I think overall, it just benefits us to have that base. … At the end of the season when we taper off, it’ll really go to show.”
In Gibson’s second year at the helm of the program, his recruiting efforts have appeared to start to have a positive result in the stat-sheets. With seeing the potential of the team after the first two meets of the year, Gibson hopes to restore the program to a high-caliber state down the road.
“We’re just working towards the goals of just trying to be as competitive as football and basketball,” Gibson said. “That’s why these guys are here, is because they want to work and possibly try and win a national title. That’s the goal and that’s what they’re working for.”