Sam Stevens is excited. Not only did the junior from Suamico, Wisc. run to an impressive third place finish (26:53 for 8,000 m) in this past weekend’s UW-Whitewater Warhawk Invitational, but his fellow runners’ teamwork was stellar as well. The men’s cross country team, despite setbacks at the previous week’s Tom Barry Invitational, is looking formidable once again.
Coming off a strong finish to the season last year — second place at the Conference meet — the men’s side is looking to make a run for the conference title this year, despite their youth.
“There’s a lot of excitement, especially from the younger guys,” noted Stevens. “The team is smaller [than last year], but everybody takes it seriously.”
Those “younger guys” have been making a big impact on the team scores. Of the top six Viking finishers at the Warhawk Invite, only two were upperclassmen. Freshman Kyle Dockery finished 17th overall with a time of 27:54, followed closely by sophomore Curran Carlile (20th in 28:01). Senior Sam Estrem (27th in 28:15), sophomore Jamie Brisbois (29th in 28:22) and freshman Pat Mangan (31st in 28:25) all contributed to what was a very solid group.
Stevens stated that this “pack running” mentality is something that coach Jason Fast has been emphasizing in pre-race meetings lately. “Coach [Fast] wants us to get our second through fifth runners to all finish within 20 seconds of each other, which is something that I think we are very capable of doing,” remarked Stevens.
The Vikings have been keeping close tabs on their conference rivals, and are excited to get a chance to race last year’s conference champion, Grinnell, next weekend at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis.
On the women’s side, there is also a lot of new energy. Senior Emily Muhs led the Viking women with a fifth place finish, covering the 6,000 m in 24:38. Muhs has been amazed by the energy that the first year runners have brought to the program.
The team has four new freshman, two new sophomores, and a new junior. Muhs noted that the “healthy competition between the newer and older teammates” has motivated and promoted improvement from all the runners.
Already the impact has been felt: Two new runners scored for the Vikings at the Warhawk Invite. First year runners Maggie Mahaffa (23rd in 26:28) and Cathy Kaye (51st in 28:38) both scored for the team. Returning runners Anna Ratliff (26th in 26:39) and Amanda Dwyer (52nd in 28:43) helped the team score.
Overall, the team has been improving and aims to place top five at the conference meet. The women are looking forward to running against some very strong competition as they join the men’s team Saturday at the Griak Invite.