Cross-country teams set sights on next season

Kevin Shay

With another season of accomplishments and disappointments in the books, ISU cross-country is beginning to look forward to the prospects of next season. While it was an overall frustrating season for the men, the women had their highest NCAA finish since they were runners-up 25 years ago.

“At nationals I think eighth place for the women was a great accomplishment, because obviously it has been 25 years since we have been that high,” said assistant coach Travis Hartke.

Although the women did have a great finish to an exciting season, they still believe they can do — and could have — done better.

“Halfway through the race we were actually in second, but just couldn’t close it out,” Hartke said. “But there is a lot of inexperience with this team, so we kind of feel both good and bad about it, because we know if we would have ran up to our potential I think we could have been in the top four.”

Prior to the race, coach Corey Ihmels said the top four was a possibility if the Cyclones ran an extraordinary race, but on last Monday’s wet and windy day, it simply wasn’t in the cards for this season.

However, being inexperienced also means having a team full of young members that will seemingly do nothing but improve. And Hartke can’t think of any top lady runner that is actually going to leave the squad.

“I think pretty much everybody is coming back [next year],” Hartke said.

Hartke said senior runners Lucy Kennedy and India Lee have at least another year of eligibility. That would mean that every girl who competed at the national meet this past Monday would be returning next year primed to be a national contender.

The coaching staff is also already busy doing recruiting and is excited about the incoming freshman class for the 2011 cross-country season.

“We have a pretty good class on both sides right now,” Hartke said. “And we’re just trying to add people who complement our team and help take our team to the next level.”

While they predominately recruit in the Midwest, Ihmels and his staff have foreign connections, especially in Kenya — which may be related to ISU runner Hillary Bor’s uncle, Barnaba Korir, who is an ISU All-American in track and field.

“Most of the kids [on the team from] the U.S. come from the Midwest,” Hartke said. “Obviously you know we have kind of an international connection. That is something that, when you look around at the NCAA, [all] the top 20 teams have. All of them seem to have at least three international runners in their top seven. So we push to have that connection, and that will continue to take place.”

One international runner, Germany native Rico Loy, is going to have to step up for the men next season after a somewhat disappointing year. And he will have to do so, especially with the loss of the team’s top runner, the aforementioned Bor.

“Rico was one of the big positives for us this year,” Hartke said. “He wasn’t even in our top seven last year, and he just missed out on nationals [as an individual] this year. He’s a big factor for us on this team in the future, and can be a leader in future years being that he is a cross-country guy.”

Hartke was also encouraged with the running of freshman Martin Coolidge.

“Martin Coolidge ran an incredible freshman campaign and was mostly our fourth guy,” Hartke said. “He was 27th at conference, and that’s pretty good for a freshman. So I think in future years he’s a guy that really wants to be good.”

Pair that that up with a few redshirted runners and a strong recruiting class and Hartke believes the program is headed in the right direction. In the end, he still wishes the season could have turned out better.

“It obviously had its ups and downs, and I think we did really well at regionals,” Hartke said. “But in the end we didn’t make it to nationals because we really didn’t take care of business earlier in the year, and it kind of cost us. So that was a little disappointing.”

While a lot of the runners will primarily be preparing for next cross country season, track and field All-Americans Bor, who finished third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last year at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, and Betsy Saina will be ready to compete this spring for the Cyclones.

“Hillary didn’t run well at nationals, but he’s more of a track guy,” Hartke said. “And I think cross-country is always a challenge for Betsy mentally because she was second in the 10K last year [at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships], but she is continuing to get better, and we saw what she was capable of in regionals.”

The season begins with the Holiday Preview on Dec. 10 in Ames, and Iowa State will host the Iowa State Open Jan. 21 and 22.