Northwest cross country brought home a pair of third place team finishes Sept. 15 at the Woody Greeno Invitational, highlighted by underclassmen.
The women’s team finished with 58 team points and were seven points behind Chadron State, with 51 points, for second place. The top five runners for Northwest averaged a time of 25:04.7 on the 6,000 meter course.
Top finishers for the Bearcats included freshmen Caroline Ross and Keely Danielson; both finished as top five runners at the Bearcat Open as well. Ross ran a time of 24:01 to take fifth place out of 69 runners, while Danielson crossed the line at 24:43.5 for seventh place.
Three seniors rounded out the top five for the Bearcats with Maria Mostek (24:59), Katie Bush (25:40.1) and Mikayla Engeman (26:00.08). The group of runners outside of the top five saw success of their own with multiple personal records.
Sophomore Erinn Fitzgerald was one of the women who set a new PR and said she is excited about the group of underclassmen she is a part of.
“It is definitely really encouraging, ” Fitzgerald said. “I love seeing our freshmen step up really well and lead the team confidently.”
With two freshmen leading the way for Northwest, coach Nick Gibson has a solid group to build around not only for this year, but in the future as well.
“For me, it is really exciting knowing how young we are and how we are doing right now and knowing in the future we are only going to be better,” Gibson said.
With 67 team points, the men’s team fell 20 points short of Nebraska Wesleyan for second place. The Bearcats top five runners averaged a time of 27:14.54 on a difficult course.
The men also benefited from underclassmen as four of the top five finishers were freshmen or sophomores. The lone upperclassman in the top five was junior Karim Achengli. Achengli finished third in the 8,000-meter run, stopping the clock at 24:34.2.
Sophomore Max Martin finished five spots behind Achengli with a time of 26:42.5, a mere 10 seconds away from a PR. Martin has taken a step up from his role last season and having Achengli to guide him has helped early on this season.
“What I have learned from Karim in practice is that it is OK to be patient,” Martin said. “He is not out there taking all the brunt of the work, he still runs with us and uses us to get better just like we use him.”
That patience that Achengli runs with will be tested in the largest meet of the season, the Arkansas Chili Pepper Festival, Sept. 22. Last year’s field included 330 runners and 40 teams on the men’s side.
The women’s race last season was even larger, having 381 athletes and 45 teams. Managing the race with that many athletes on the course is something Martin got a sense of in his freshman year.
“Having that many bodies in the race will definitely help and make running a little easier,” Martin said. “Kind of being stuck in no man’s land where there is no one close in front or behind you is hard mentally to keep pushing, but in a packed race you are always going to be around people.”