Ahead of the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Oct. 5, Northwest cross country coach Nick Gibson expected the Bearcats to perform well. To everyone’s surprise, Gibson said, a 44-year-old record would fall via the legs of junior Jhordan Ccope.
At the Pizza Ranch Media Luncheon Oct. 3, Gibson noted how fast the course at the meet was going to be. With that, “we’ll see” was Gibson’s thoughts on how the Bearcats would perform. For Gibson and both the men’s and women’s teams, they saw.
What they saw was Ccope place sixth individually in the midst of a meet that consisted of all levels of NCAA competition. In doing so, a 44-year-old record at Northwest — predating the birth of Gibson — was broken. The new mark for the 8,000-meter race is set at 23 minutes and 57 seconds, something that should hold its place for a while, Gibson said.
“It was obviously unexpected,” Gibson said. “We were hoping that the team would run fast and they did. (Ccope) breaking the school record was just really an added bonus.”
Among the likes of Division I programs like Texas, Oklahoma State and Arkansas, the men found themselves placing seventh with a total of 228 points.
The men’s counterpart, the women’s team, placed 45th overall. In the same field of competition, sophomore Keely Danielsen spearheaded the women with a 5,000-meter race time of 19:30.2. Danielsen’s finish was good enough for an individual placing of 45th.
Proceeding the rather successful meet, more so for the men than for the women’s squad, the Bearcats were pegged to compete in the Lewis Crossover Oct. 12. In the aftermath of Chile Pepper, Gibson found that it would be within best interest to pull the ’Cats out of the lone tournament that stands between Chile Pepper and the MIAA Championships Oct. 26.
“I think having the Missouri Western meet off served us well, I really do,” Gibson said. “I don’t think that Chile Pepper would have gone as well if we had ran that meet. … We’re going into these races knowing that you’re not going to be fresh, but once you start to taper off and get breaks, your legs start to get fresh and you run so fast.”
Where most programs think that the more frequently you run the better you get, the Bearcats, plagued with injuries, will benefit from the pattern of off-weeks down the stretch, Gibson said.
Relatively speaking to the results from Chile Pepper, Gibson said, he believes the women have been progressing more and more to this point in the season. Sophomore Caroline Ross has been a big part of that. Along with Danielsen, Ross has been back and forth with her teammate when it comes to leading the team at meets. The sophomore duo has served as a bright spot for the side of the overall team that has struggled in recent years.
“It’s really fun knowing that we can be better in the future,” Ross said. “Watching the guys be so successful this year is encouraging to the women’s team. Just seeing what they’re doing and saying that, ‘We can be there.’”
The weekend off will leave both teams with three weeks in between Chile Pepper and the MIAA Championships Oct. 26. Both the men and women, coupled with the rest that they have on their body, will have to spend the 21 days thinking about the opportunity of doing something that hasn’t been done in nearly half of a century
“We’re just getting ready to try and go do well at conference,” Gibson said. “On the men’s side, we’re hopefully going to try and bring home a conference championship — something that hasn’t been done in 47 years — which would be a huge accomplishment for these guys.”