A season's worth of training and meets have led up to the postseason for Ashland University's men's and women's cross country teams.
The Eagle men and women will compete on Saturday (Nov. 9) at the NCAA Division II Midwest Region Cross Country Championships in Evansville, Ind., hosted by Southern Indiana. The women's 6K race will begin at 11:30 a.m. East (10:30 a.m. Central), followed by the men's 10K race at 12:45 p.m. East (11:45 a.m. Central).
A total of 34 teams from around the country (the top three from each of eight regions, and 10 at-large) and an additional 24 individuals per gender (the top two not on a qualifying team from each region, and eight at-large) will be selected for the 2019 NCAA Division II Championships, Nov. 23 in Sacramento, Calif.
Ashland head coach Jacob Sussman has high hopes for senior Steven Kapes, who has been the Eagle men's No. 1 runner the entire season, and who earned second-team All-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference honors with a 17th-place finish at the GLIAC Championships two weeks ago.
"It's pretty realistic," Sussman said of Kapes' nationals chances. "He's got to be somewhere close to top 10 in the race, and he's getting more and more in shape every week, and it shows by his races. He's just improved every race.
"Really, we've been training for 10Ks all semester, so it should definitely show this weekend."
Kapes' top 10K time in college is 31:49.0.
Ashland's men have run 8Ks each of the last four meets, and the improvement from Michigan State in mid-September to GLIACs is evident among the top performers:
- Kapes, 26:07.6 to 24:57.6.
- Senior Kyle Shively, 26:34.5 to 26:00.7
- Junior Ian Johnson, 27:00.1 to 26:14.5
- Junior Tyler Sievert, 27:14.3 to 26:10.9
- Junior Connor Ingram, 27:33.4 to 26:36.7
- Sophomore Cody Booth, DNS to 25:57.9
- Freshman Lucas Lay, DNS to 26:06.7
"It takes a while for a coach sometimes to figure out how to train athletes," Sussman said, "especially on the distance side of things. We've definitely seen big improvements this year. It just gets more and more exciting for cross country."
The Ashland women also will have the opportunity at USI to showcase their improvements throughout the season, from the first 6K at MSU to GLIACs:
- Sophomore Abby Moser, DNS to 22:51.7
- Senior Johannah Stefanek, 23:53.3 to 23:05.3
- Freshman Emma Hinkle, 25:17.4 to 24:42.6
- Freshman Hannah Ohman, 25:56.4 to 25:15.6
- Junior Tracy Morgan, 25:46.2 to 25:41.0
- Junior Maureen McKeown, DNS to 25:52.8
- Sophomore Cassandra Ponzi, 28:34.4 to 25:57.6
"The two freshman girls that we have that are in our top seven, they've got it (the training) figured out, and it's working really well for them," Sussman said. "And Abby, it's been working well for her since the beginning."
Sussman said the USI course is very flat, and usually is a fast course.