Men’s cross country seeks national ranking

Brian Thursby

KSU hopes for fourth straight win

The Kent State men’s cross country team’s goal for this season has always been a Mid-American Conference championship.

But after a string of successes to open the season, the Flashes have their eyes on a new goal: a national ranking.

The Kent State men’s and women’s cross country teams compete today at the Penn State National Invitational in State College, Penn. The women’s team looks to build on three top-five finishes, while the men look to remain undefeated.

The men’s team has had an impressive season so far, with first place finishes at the Tommy Evans Invitational, the Iona Invitational and the Ohio Invitational. At Penn State, the Flashes will face some of their toughest competition yet.

“We are facing Georgetown, which is our main competition heading to Penn,” junior John Minen said. “They are tenth in the nation. We (also) have the opportunity to take out Wisconsin, which is in the top ten. “

Junior Scott Hilditch said he hopes the tougher competition will prepare the Flashes for the upcoming MAC championship, and bring some attention to Kent State.

“It’s a stepping-stone to one of our goals: to win a MAC conference title,” Hilditch said. “If we can run with Georgetown, we will accomplish some big goals, put ourselves in the national standings and put some limelight on KSU.”

Coach Mark Croghan said he thinks the harder competition is a good refresher for the upcoming MAC championship.

“We still have to go out and compete well on Friday and take a dress rehearsal for the MAC championships,” Croghan said. “We have the opportunity to run against some good competition, with a good course. We really want to take advantage of this weekend.”

Croghan said the strategy for the race will follow the same plan as the first three races.

“We are going to take the same approach as we have: get out, get aggressive and get a good position in the front of the pack,” Croghan said “If we do that that, we will place. It will work itself out.”

The strategy of pack running relies on the team’s four top runners, senior Aiman Scullion, senior Tony Jordanek, Hilditch and Minen, to run together at the front and secure a group based finish.

Minen said the strategy is so effective because of the bonds the teammates share.

“Having people you constantly train with all the time helps you,” Minen said. “To be able to talk and strategize and have everybody together at the same time really helps in getting the race over with, mentally and physically.”

Hilditch said the top four spots, though important, do not make the team.

“It is nice to have four guys up there, but if your five or six (runners) aren’t there, it doesn’t mean a lot,” Hilditch said. Michael (Heller) and (Joe) Purpura are going to be some key ingredients for our race on Friday.”

Minen said the team pulls each other through the difficult parts and takes pressure

“It is easy to zone out in a five mile race, but when you have your teammates with you it helps to get to that five mile mark,” Minen said. “You know you have three other people backing you.”

Contact sports reporter Brian Thursby at [email protected].