Cross country teams look to remain strong at MAC

Brad Tansey

After winning its first Mid-American Conference title in school history last season, the Kent State men’s cross country team is labeled as the underdog this year.

In the preseason, the Flashes were picked to finish second behind Eastern Michigan.

In tomorrow’s MAC Championship meet at Kalamazoo, Mich., Kent State coach Mark Croghan said his team is focused on doing what they’ve done all season.

“I think even last year our approach was that we wanted to run a certain type of race to put ourselves in contention to place as high as we could,” Croghan said. “Our approach really isn’t going to be any different this year. I don’t think it really matters that last year we were the favorites on paper and maybe this year more of an underdog.”

Leading the men’s team is senior co-captain Scott Hilditch. At last year’s MAC Championship, Hilditch finished second on the team after crossing the finish line with a time of 25 minutes, 48.6 seconds in the 8k race for third place overall. He was named First Team All-MAC.

“We want to go out and put our best effort forward and run, as a team and as individuals, the best race we can,” Croghan said.

Junior co-captain Michael Heller finished eighth last season with a time of 26:11.1. The finish earned Heller Second Team All-MAC honors.

Heller said his goal is a First Team All-MAC honor.

“Individually, I’m feeling healthy and I think my workouts and practices have gone exactly how I’d like them to go,” Heller said. “So, I think I’m just going to go out and do my thing.”

The women’s team finished in fifth place at last season’s MAC Championship.

Croghan said he expects a competitive race from the women’s team.

“We want to run an aggressive race; we want to put ourselves in it right from the get go,” he said. “I think that’s something we’ve been good at all year.”

The Flashes will be without senior Alex Lizarribar who has a stress fracture in her right ankle. Last year, Lizarribar finished second overall with a time of 22:30.8 in the 6k race.

Senior co-captain Allison Krupko said this year’s team is “definitely a top-three finish.”

“We have the chance to go in there and kind of be an underdog and show everybody what Kent State cross country is made of,” she said. “If we all cross the line within 20 seconds of each other one through five we have a really good shot of taking away a championship.”

Last year, Krupko finished 40th overall at the MAC meet, crossing the finish line at 24:04.2.

Krupko said winning a championship is “everything that this group of girls deserves.”

“From the young girls to the fifth-year senior (Jessica Lhotsky), everybody has worked their butts off this year,” Krupko said. “Every day we just come and hit it hard, hit it hard, hit it hard and nobody complained and nobody backed down ever.”

The women will run at 11 a.m., and the men will follow at 12 p.m. The top teams will be named MAC Champions and the top-14 individuals will earn MAC All-Conference honors.

You can contact Brad Tansey at [email protected].