ISU cross country teams struggle

Zac Reicks

On a beautiful fall Saturday in Ames, the ISU men’s and women’s cross country teams entertained 66 men’s and women’s teams from all over the nation at the ISU Memorial Classic.

In preparation for the NCAA championships which come to Ames on Nov. 20, 16 of the top 25 women’s teams and 13 of the top 25 men’s teams were in attendance which made the meet one of the most competitive of the entire season.

Coach Bourke and the Cyclone men came into Saturday’s affair hoping to distinguish themselves from past seasons of disappointment and come away with momentum that could be carried on throughout the season.

However, the debacle that occurred at Saturday’s meet was the last thing that both Bourke and his runners expected as the Clones limped home with a 40th place finish overall.

“We obviously didn’t run our best race of the year,” Bourke said. “This was the first time that everyone on the team was running together with Daniel [Kinyua] being back, but he is not in race shape yet which didn’t help.”

Both Kinyua and team leader Mike Mwangong have been battling injuries and illness for most of the season, but Bourke didn’t think that those factors affected the team’s overall performance that much.

“Mike was battling bronchitis like he has been for the past month, but it just came down to guys running sub par races today,” Bourke said. “The injuries have only hurt us in practice because Mike and Daniel haven’t been able to lead in practice like they usually do.”

Mwangong was quick to add support to the fact that this wasn’t his and the team’s finest hour.

“I ran terrible today,” Mwangong said. “I was not expecting to run the way that I did.”

When asked if his problem with bronchitis played a major part in his disappointing performance, he could only shake his head and wonder what could have been.

“Though I was sick and haven’t been able to train very well, I still did not expect to run as poorly as I did,” Mwangong said. “I just hope the sickness goes away in the next couple of weeks so I can get back to practicing and performing like I am used to.”

Another of the Cyclone men who is also hoping to get completely healthy is Kinyua. Plagued with an achilles injury that has hampered him since last season, he placed second for the ISU and 186th overall in a time of 33:03. He turned in a gutsy performance on the hilly Cyclone course that had to have been torture on his achilles.

“I would be lying if I said that the injury didn’t affect my performance,” Kinyua said. “Going uphill and downhill was very tough for me today.”

With this being his first meet of the year, it was expected that Kinyua might have been a little apprehensive about running on a leg that wasn’t quite 100 percent. But the senior veteran quickly dispelled any questions about being tentative in such a big race.

“I looked at it like just another meet,” Kinyua said. “For me to finish this race and still be standing on my own two legs, it was very good for me.”

Coach Bourke also recognized the gritty effort that Kinyua turned in on Saturday.

“I am glad Daniel was standing at the end myself,” Bourke said. “I was worried about him, especially in the hills which I know was tough on his achilles.”

Mwangong, who led the way for the Cyclones, finished 98th overall, covering the 10K course in a time of 32:23. After the aforementioned Kinyua, Peter Hess rounded out the top three finishers for the men coming in 208th overall in a time of 33:13.

Things didn’t go much better for the Cyclone women on Saturday as Kelly Brinkman provided the only bright spot for Coach Dick Lee’s harriers. Coming in to the meet hoping to solidify their position on the national scene, the Cyclone women were sent back to the drawing board after struggling to a 35th place finish.

Brinkman finished 21st overall and took home the top spot for the ISU women, covering the 6K course in time of 21:44. Brinkman, only a sophomore, has led the Cyclone women all season, and Saturday was no different as she bested over 350 runners en route to her fantastic performance.

“I was really, really pleased, but shocked,” Brinkman said. “With so many quality teams and individuals being there … it was incredible!”

Coach Lee also shared Kelly’s enthusiasm and recognized that she truly had run a great overall race.

“Kelly Brinkman ran a great race for us,” Lee said. “Unlike the other ladies, she was able to get out fast in the first 1,000 meters of the race, and that dictated how she was going to run her race.”

Nevertheless, Coach Lee was particularly displeased with how the team performed as awhole. With so many ranked teams being at Ames, he knew that a golden opportunity had slipped through his grasp.

“We didn’t perform as well as we hoped we would,” Lee said. “Even though we had a few individuals run good races, this was really an off race for almost the whole team.”

After Brinkman, senior captain Laurie Meythaler came in second for the Cyclone women with a time of 23:08, which was good enough for 158th overall. Jessica Huff rounded out the top three, finishing 179th in a time of 23:18.

Both Cyclone teams return to action in two weeks during in the Big 12 Championships held in Colorado.