After Northwest’s third meet of the season at the Arkansas Chile Pepper Festival Sept. 22, the amount of personal records through one month has caught coach Nick Gibson’s attention.
In Fayetteville, Arkansas, the top three finishers for the women’s team crossed the line with new personal bests. Freshman Caroline Ross led the way in the 5,000-meter run running the best time of her young career at 19:13.5, good enough for 107th place out of 424 athletes, improving upon her previous best in the Bearcat Open by more than a minute.
Fellow freshman Keely Danielson also improved her 5,000-meter best by more than a minute crossing at 19:32.4 in 141st place, while wearing one shoe for most of the race. In between the two freshmen at 136th place, senior Maria Mostek raced her way to a personal best time of 19:30.0.
Gibson attributed the string of personal records to start the season to the team's mentality during practice.
“Everyday we go in and everyone is ready to roll and get after it, but they are having a good time doing it,” Gibson said. “I think that is the biggest thing that has helped contribute to the PRs that and the culture of the team right now.”
For a meet containing 424 athletes and 51 different teams, the top five runners for the Bearcat women stayed grouped up throughout the race. There was roughly 40 seconds between Ross and senior Katie Bush, who rounded out the top five.
The ability to stay together and run off each other during the packed race is just one of the factors that led to the successful day for Northwest. The men’s team raced a little differently than the women, with just more than four and a half minutes between the top finisher, junior Karim Achengli, and junior Cliff Nichols who finished as the No. 6 runner for Northwest.
Achengli placed 12th overall out of 441 competitors running a 24:46.2. Following him was sophomore Tucker Dahle running 27:19.3, placing 179th and improving his personal best 8,000-meter time as a Bearcat.
Dahle, being just a sophomore, was not nervous or concerned about handling a race with over 400 athletes due to his past experiences at the meet.
“The number (of athletes) at this point is just kind of expected for me,” Dahle said. “The biggest thing I do is just try not to focus on everyone out there and focus on the guys I’m lined up next to and how to help us get a good spot.”
Three freshmen finished out the top five runners for the Bearcats behind Dahle, Zach Houghland, Zach Kush and Zach Staples. The course in Arkansas provided some challenge as it was wet and muddy for the meet, but despite that, the Bearcats were able to muster multiple personal best times in the rough conditions.
Gibson, along with the leadership on the team, knows that there is much more to come from this team moving forward.
“The team is capable of so much more than what we showed at the last meet,” Mostek said. “We will get a couple good weeks of training in and run up at Emporia, where we will run for conference, so I am excited to see what happens.”