Ba’s first place finish highlights Falcon Invitational for cross country


Freshman Baidy Ba runs during the Falcon Invitational in Bowling Green, Ohio on Saturday Oct. 16.

Freshman Baidy Ba has only competed in four meets as a college runner, but he already has a first place finish after winning the men’s 8K race at the Falcon Invitational hosted by Bowling Green State University on Saturday.

“Baidy was able to keep on pushing up front,” coach James Croft said. “It was him and a Bowling Green athlete for the last half of the race, and Baidy was just shadowing him, doing what freshmen do by just being patient and watching and learning. I told him to just wait until the last 200 meters to move. And that’s what he did. And he did it pretty soundly and won pretty soundly.” 

The Kent State men’s cross country placed fifth out of seven teams at the Falcon Invitational. They had 101 points and three top-25 finishers out of 75 runners who competed in the event.

Croft said that for the first time this season heat wasn’t a factor, but the weather still played a big role.

“Conditions were wet and sloppy,” he said. “Unfortunately, they got a lot of rain the night before, and the course conditions were kind of rough. So I told both squads before the race to not worry about time, let’s just go out there and compete. Let’s get a good effort and good race strategy. And for the most part, we definitely did that.” 

Sophomore Joe Farley finished sixth with a time of 26:22.59. 

Farley and Ba have been the two best runners on the men’s team this season and they both have been the top two finishers for KSU’s men in each meet. 

Croft said the two work together in races to boost each other’s performance.

“Joe’s been a good leader for us,” he said. “He leaves no stone unturned, and he goes about training and practice in a very businesslike manner. And I think Baidy’s picked up on that. They push each other in practice. They’ve developed a good relationship of working well together.”

Freshman Jonah Cuestas finished 22nd with a time of 27:26.34 to round out the Flashes’ top-25 finishers. 

Cuestas’ time was his best of the season. 

“Jonah is going to be one that takes a step,” Croft said. “He ran a personal record, which is kinda crazy considering the conditions. When we get better competition on a faster course at the MAC Championships, he’s going to make a really big jump.” 

Oakland University won the men’s 8K with 49 points. 

The Kent State women’s cross country team finished third out of nine teams with 80 points.

The University of Akron won the women’s 6K with 42 points. 

“I’m really encouraged by our performances,” Croft said. “They all went out and got where they needed to be in the race. We were leading halfway through the race, and then Akron made a move in the middle. We were only out of second by eight points.”

Graduate student Stephanie Ward was once again the team’s top woman runner after she finished fifth with a time of 23:07.96.

Ward was the KSU women’s best runner at their last meet, the Joe Piane Invitational hosted by Notre Dame. It was her first race as a Flash after transferring from the University of Oregon. 

Croft said that they didn’t know where she was in terms of fitness at the last meet. 

“Her strategy at Notre Dame was to just hang with Leah [Lisle] for the first mile, and if you feel good then take off,” he said. “And that’s exactly what she did. We needed a little bit more going into this meet. I said ‘Go with the leaders. If that first mile feels comfortable with the leaders, then you can keep pushing.’”

Croft added that Ward overcame some challenges.

“Turns out there were some pretty fast girls there on Saturday,” he said. “So she went out super aggressive, and she’d probably say she was too aggressive. She went out hard and got dropped eventually, but she stayed strong. She didn’t blow up or anything like that. I credit her maturity and her ability to hold on and still place fifth. A younger runner would have blown up and faded.” 

Senior Leah Lisle finished eighth with a time of 23:35.77. 

“Last year, Leah really figured out what works for her,” Croft said. “Which is steady training, high mileage and a lot of aerobic work. And that’s what she’s been doing the past year. This fall she’s taken it up to another level. She just went straight up to the front and controlled the whole way. This was finally the first showing of where we think she could be in two weeks at the MAC Championships.”

Freshman Sydney Gallagher finished 17th with a time of 23:58.68 to round out the women’s top-25 finishers out of 86 runners. 

The Flashes will next compete at the MAC Championships hosted by Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti, Michigan on Saturday Oct. 30. 

Croft said he is looking for the team’s practice to finally show.

“We’ve been training so much better than we’ve been racing,” he said. “And I think that just comes from immaturity. Almost everybody on the team is a freshman or sophomore, and the sophomores didn’t really have a season last year. Once they finally click on putting the race together it’ll be impressive.”

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