BY MADISON SHAPLAND
The Fort Hays State University cross country teams take on another season with both men’s and women’s teams seated sixth in the MIAA Cross Country Preseason Coaches Poll.
This season looks promising for the runners after a phenomenal start at the Terry Masterson Twilight Classic held on September 1st where the women swept the competition, placing first as a team with five top 10 individual placings. Contributing to their finish was Gretchen Kuffel with a first place finish, Regan Hodsen with a third-place finish, Jaycee Vath with a fourth-place finish, Darian Hudgeons with a sixth-place finish, and Elizabeth Fender with a seventh-place finish.
The men also had a successful debut, finishing second as a team and placing five individuals in the top 15. Grant Bradley was the third runner to cross the finish line, Ethan Fisher was ninth, Lucas Cisneros was 11th, with Jaret Pfizenmaier crossed in the 15th slot.
Fort Hays’s Cross Country Head Coach, Jason McCullough, commented on the prosperous competition.
“It encourages us to continue what we are doing. The team has been working hard and they are motivated to excel this season. The first meet was a good indicator that we are on the right track,” McCullough said.
McCullough went on to say the team has a great dynamic this year with student-ahletes who desire to work hard and excel.
“They are a supportive group who really focus on helping each other reach their goals,” McCullough said. “I believe that they worked well this offseason preparing for cross country.”
He also said that success in cross country really does come down to what work an athlete is willing to do during the summer and how consistent they can be over the course of months and years.
In years past, the cross country team held practices, alumni events, and home meets at the Sand Plum course, located in Victoria. Recently, the land that is home to the course had an ownership change, resulting in the Tigers losing their running ground.
“It is unfortunate that we do not have our home course at Sand Plum. That was a great facility that previously hosted the state meet, the MIAA meet, and many great Tiger Opens over the years. It was a great fundraiser for us when hosting meets as well,” McCullough said.
In the absence of this ground, the team has had to get creative to find a means to practice.
“As for practice, we developed a mile loop around our track & field facility that is great for workouts, particularly during morning practices in which the student-athletes can work out, and then head to class, ” McCullough said. “It has allowed us to work out on grass more often.”
In regards to getting home action once again, McCullough said they are currently looking into another property closer to Hays to host meets in the future.
“I think we should be able to host a home meet next year,” he said.
The team will face some challenging competition at their next three meets before conference and nationals.
“The MIAA conference and Central Region are incredibly competitive each year. But we have high expectations for our squads. Our goals are to compete against the best teams in the conference and region,” McCullough said. “We have an opportunity to qualify some athletes/teams to the national meet if we can stay healthy and focused.”
Their next competition will take place in Joplin, MO, at the Southern Stampede on Saturday.