The Southwestern men's and women's cross country teams competed Friday afternoon, Sept. 8, 2017, at the Yellowjacket Invite, on the campus of Graceland University in Lamoni. The women ran first at the 4k distance, while the men followed with a 6k.
The women's team was led by a pair of medalists, Heather Jessen, freshman, and Renna Stopak, freshman, who finished in seventh and ninth places respectively. Also competing for the Spartans were Jessica Beatty, freshman; Halie Dean, freshman; and BreAnn Rhodes, freshman.
The men's team finished second overall in the five team field with a team average of 21:52, a 2:27 improvement on the team average from a year ago. The Spartans were led with seventh and eighth place finishes respectively by Shane Breheny, freshman, and Chance Webster, sophomore. Also medaling for the Spartans was Kevin Dietrich, sophomore, in 10th place. Rounding out the five scorers, in the 11th and 12th places respectively were Nathan Bradley, freshman, and Jalen Two Leggins, sophomore.
"It was a great day for our team, and gives us some momentum to build on," said Trey Bruton, Spartan head coach. "When you have five medalists from one meet, you know things are headed in the right direction. It was a rather hot and humid day, on an open and rolling course, and I thought both our men's and women's squads were very impressive!"
Coming into the day, the Spartan men were motivated to try and win the meet, but ran into some stiff competition with (NAIA) Park University.
"They [Park University] will likely be ranked or receiving votes in the next NAIA cross country poll," Bruton mentioned. "Our guys put up a good fight against a really tough opponent, we finished with six of the top 13 spots, and had a 1-5 split of just 19 seconds. With a pack finishing that tight, we are going to have a chance in a lot of meets this season."
With the addition of a couple newcomers, Bruton said it was nice for the Spartan women to have a full team and be able to score this week.
"Having a full team really helped the ladies push each other," said Bruton. "This was the first ever meet for a couple of our ladies, so I know we will see some big improvements from them as our season progresses. With these additions, we have a great shot at closing in on some of the conference schools by the Championships in October.
Both the Spartan men's and women's teams have this week off before heading back into action in two weeks at the Roy Griak Invitational in St. Paul, MN, at the Les Bolstad Golf Course on Saturday, Sept. 23.