Cross country ready to run toward MVC title

Cross Country team practicing for upcoming tournament.

Sports Editor

Many people don’t realize how much of a team sport cross country actually is. Sure, each athlete runs the race on their own, but the top-five finishers for each school have their places added together to compile a team score.

Both the men and women’s cross-country teams at Wichita State are looking to continue their run of success as a team. In the NCAA Division I preseason regional rankings that were released on Monday, both the men and women are ranked 13th in the Midwest Region.     

Last season the men finished 18th while the women finished in 12th place. 

“Both the men and women really want to win the conference title this season,” WSU cross-country coach Kirk Hunter said. “They’ve been working hard now and this summer.”

Last season the men finished fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference while the women finished second behind Illinois State. The men’s team will have to compete with Southern Illinois, Drake and Indiana State, who are all ranked in the top 15 within their respected regions. The women’s side has reigning MVC champions Southern Illinois and Bradley ranked in the top 15 in their regions.

“It’s going to be really difficult with some teams that are out there,” Hunter said. “But I’m really happy that these athletes are willing to work and give it their best shot.”

The NCAA doesn’t allow coaches to monitor athletes’ workouts during the summer, so athletes are responsible for getting their mileage in on their own.

“I’m happy that these guys and girls have worked hard. They all put in their summer mileage to do their best to win it,” Hunter said.

On the women’s side, the Shockers return the reigning MVC champion, senior Aliphine Tuliamuk. Last season Tuliamuk won the MVC Championship with a time of 17:16 in the 6000-meter race. Tuliamuk also finished 12th at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships. The 12th place finish is the highest in WSU history.

The men’s team has a more balanced team this season without one standout runner.

“It’s so difficult to reduce it down to numbers. When you go through the reps there is so much depth on the men’s side that they trade off,” Hunter said.

Two runners on the men’s side that are looking to have a big season are seniors Marcos Bailon and Jake Wike. At last season’s MVC Championship, Bailon and Wike finished 20th and 22nd, respectively.

“On the men’s side, Marcos has been doing well. He’s been leading the team in workouts,” Hunter said.

Preparation for the season includes lots of running, with a mixture of other workouts to help strengthen the athletes.

“We have a pool workout twice a week. That helps us get a workout in without pounding on the ground,” Hunter said. “We also do weight training. We try to incorporate a lot into it, especially weight training.”

Both the men and women’s teams will start their season on Saturday at the J.K. Gold Classic. The meet will host between 16 and 20 college teams, with 15 high school teams. The meet will feature WSU and Kansas State as the only Division I teams, with a mixture of NAIA, JUCO and Division II schools.

The meet begins at 9 a.m. at the Raft Golf Course in Augusta.