Farley and Ba highlight second straight cross country meet

Jimmy Oswald Sports Editor

Kent State cross country coach James Croft went into the All-Ohio Championships in Cedarville, Ohio with a race plan designed to boost his runners’ performances and, in turn, raise his team up the scoreboard. 

But on a day where temperatures soared into the upper 80s, adjustments had to be made. 

“It was a hot day, and we literally blew up,” Croft said. “We had two of our middle distance runners drop out of the race. 8K is a long distance for them, and they both made a smart decision to step off the course and put their health first.” 

After seeing the effects the heat had on the men, who ran their race first, Croft adjusted his plan for his women runners to ensure they could continue to be competitive in the weather. 

“I saw the carnage,” Croft said. “I saw so many guys drop out or finish the race with near heat exhaustion. I told them to be very, very cautious the first half of the race. We weren’t trying to break any records that day, I just wanted them to finish the race in one healthy piece.”

Despite the blistering weather, sophomore Joe Farley and freshman Baidy Ba continued to be the top runners on the men’s side by finishing 11th and 12th, respectively, in the 8K out of 221 runners. Farley finished with a time of 25:27.5, his best 8K time as a Flash, and Ba with a time of 25:28.3. 

“Farley and Ba did a great job sticking to what I told them before the race,” Croft said. “Which was for them to just shadow the leaders for the first half of the race and then start picking people off.” 

Farley and Ba finished back-to-back last week as well, finishing fourth and fifth out of 64 runners in the men’s four-mile at the Tommy Evans Invitational. 

“Ba is a freshman, so he’s just been shadowing Farley everyday in workouts,” Croft said. “Ba is doing a little less in terms of volume and training, but he is sticking right with Farley.” 

Croft is especially impressed with Farley’s improvement.

“[Farley] has been super consistent since spring of last year,” Croft said. “He’s really had things start clicking for him and he carried that through the summer with his training. And it showed with him setting a personal record on that day on that course, it’s unreal.” 

Freshman Jonah Cuestas was the only other KSU men’s runner to finish in the top 100 by placing 99th with a time of 27:46.1.

The Flashes placed 14th out of 26 teams with a score of 355.

Miami, who along with Ohio and KSU were the only Mid-American Conference teams competing in the men’s race, won the meet with a score of 39.

“We had a lot of freshmen who had to step up,” Croft said. “That’s tough to do because they’re still learning the ropes. So the team score was not what we wanted.” 

Croft is looking for the men’s team to improve, as several of their top runners did not compete in this meet.

“Sophomore Trey Double is a big factor for us,” Croft said. “He was one of the kids that dropped out of the race.” 

Senior Alex Stamper, who finished eighth in the men’s 8K at the MAC Cross Country Championships and became KSU’s first All-MAC First Team performer since 2012, is studying abroad in Italy.

Senior Drew Johnson, who was named to the All-MAC Second Team after his 13th place finish in the men’s 8K at the MAC Championships, will be joining the team for their next meet. 

For the second straight meet, senior Leah Lisle was the first Flash on the women’s side to finish. She placed 33rd out of 221 runners in the women’s 6K with a time of 23:30.0. 

“Leah did a good job of picking people off,” Croft said. “She told me she just felt like she was passing people the whole last half of the race. We’re excited for her, she’s put in a lot of work, and we’re looking to see her make All-MAC this year.” 

Freshman Sydney Gallagher (53rd, 23:57.8) and junior Nicole DiCicco (81st, 24:35.3) were the other two KSU women’s runners who finished in the top 100. 

The women’s team finished 13th out of 25 teams with a score of 372. Miami also won this race, with a score of 37.

Croft hopes to see improvement in the women’s team with the addition of graduate student Stephanie Ward, who transferred from the University of Oregon.

“Ward is our potential number one,” Croft said. “So when she comes and rejoins us, it’ll be good.” 

Freshman Anna Jones, a runner from Brisbane, Australia, will also be joining the team for their next meet. 

The Flashes next compete at the Joe Piane Invitational, hosted by the University of Notre Dame, on Oct. 1 in South Bend, Indiana.

 Jimmy Oswald is a sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]