Men’s cross country brings home first MAC championship

Brian Thursby

Women take fifth on muddy course

Preseason predictions to win the Mid-American Conference may not be worth much, but bringing home the title is. The Kent State men’s cross country team won the Mid-American Conference Championship on Saturday in Athens, while the women’s team finished fifth.

Kent State brought home its first ever men’s cross country MAC Championship. Senior Aiman Scullion was the MAC individual champion and had his second individual victory of the season, while Kent State coach Mark Croghan was named the 2009 men’s MAC Coach of the Year.

Three other Flashes rounded out the top 10, with junior Scott Hilditch in third, senior Tony Jordanek in fifth and freshman Michael Heller in eighth Junior Alex Lizarribar finished in second place in the women’s race.

Though the fifth-place team finish was not what she had hoped for, Lizarribar said the women ran well.

“Under the conditions, I gave it my all,” Lizarribar said. “I’m just happy I was able to help our team move up in the rankings. We were predicted to finish seventh, but we came in fifth, so that was good. We showed we are ready to compete and fight hard.”

Croghan said he was proud of the way the men’s team ran and the way the men held the pack formation well into the race.

“It was everything we were shooting for this season,” Croghan said. “It was a great team effort from top to bottom. Not one guy is more important than another, and it was a great performance from top to bottom.”

The Flashes battled a wet, soggy and unpredictable field and several strong teams in Athens to secure the victory by the men’s team and a solid fifth-place position for the women. Hilditch said the field was a rough one.

“It was a lot muddier than the first time we went down,” Hilditch said. “It made it real difficult to get footing. With mud, hairpin turns and wetness, it was messy. We were fortunate no one went down.”

Scullion said the unstable footing made the race a slow one.

“It was very soft and muddy,” Scullion said. “The footing was not very good. It was pretty sloppy and slow.”

The victory in the MAC is still surreal to some team members. Scullion said the reward was worth the hard training.

“It is finally soaking in,” Scullion said. ” I am the MAC champ, it took a lot of hard work, and it finally came true. It has been a goal, a dream since I was a freshman.”

Hilditch also said the first ever championship evoked a special feeling.

“To win the first one ever in Kent’s history, it’s great to be a part of that thing,” Hilditch said. “The fact we did it yesterday was pretty cool. It was one of those experiences that will never happen again, we can never win the first one again, and this sets up the future.”

The Flashes will head to the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Meet in Bloomington, Ind., on Nov. 14. The team has high hopes following a strong season and success in the MAC. Croghan said the Flashes can do well if they have done what they have all season.

“Just run the race the way we have, be successful,” he said. “The place will shake itself out.”

Contact sports reporter Brian Thursby at [email protected].