Southwestern's men's and women's cross country teams kicked off the 2017 season on Saturday morning, Aug. 26, 2017, at the ICCAC/Region XI time trial, on the campus of Iowa Western in Council Bluffs. Both teams competed at the 5k distance for this event.
According to Spartan Head Coach Trey Bruton, the course was set-up to be a true XC course which featured some rough footing with several changes of terrain and rolling hills; add in some of the toughest competition in the NJCAA and it made for a rather challenging meet overall.
The men's team finished sixth overall in the nine-team meet with a team average of 17:44, a 1:06 improvement on the team average from a year ago. The Spartans were led with a 29th place finish by freshman Shane Breheny (17:18). He was followed closely behind by sophomore Chance Webster (17:41), freshman Phoenix Shadden (17:46), freshman Nathan Bradley (17:49), and sophomore Kevin Dietrich (18:05) who finished 38th, 39th, 41st, and 43rd respectively. Also competing for the Spartans were sophomore Terrell Gibbs (20:01, 62nd) and sophomore Travis Purdy (26:37, 70th).
The Spartan women's team was led with a 21st place finish by freshman Christina Stopak (22:42). She was followed closely behind by freshman Heather Jessen (22:47) who finished 22nd. Also competing for the Spartans was freshman Halie Dean (32:05). The ladies ran with less than a full team on Saturday, therefore they could not score as a team at the meet. However, both Stopak and Jessen ran faster times than Southwestern's top finisher from the time trials a year ago, which featured a group of Spartan women who finished 32nd at Nationals.
"I was rather impressed with the way my guys and gals competed," said Bruton. "Some of our athletes haven't even finished a full week of practices and those that have were put through two weeks of pretty intense training, so I knew their legs weren't going to be under them at this point. We still have a long way to go, but once our ladies get healthy and the training starts coming around for everyone, I believe that both our teams have a chance to do something really special this year."
Both the Spartan men's and women's teams will be back in action in two weeks at the Graceland Yellowjacket Open on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, in Lamoni.