Men’s and women’s teams improve on 2007 MAC finishes

Brittany Tatgenhorst

Four KSU runners take home honors

The Kent State cross country teams left the 2008 Mid-American Conference Championships this weekend feeling vindicated after improving on last year’s disappointing performances.

The men’s team finished third out of nine teams, and the women’s team finished eighth out of 12. Last year, the men’s team placed sixth and the women’s team took ninth.

“The men’s team ran phenomenally,” Kent State coach Mark Croghan said.

The Flashes came home from Ypsilanti, Mich., with more than just vindication, as four Kent State runners received All-MAC honors Saturday.

For the men, sophomore Aiman Scullion finished fourth overall with a time of 24 minutes, 44.4 seconds, earning him first-team All-MAC honors.

Senior Tony Jordanek placed 10th with a time of 24:59.5, and sophomore Scott Hilditch placed 14th with a time of 25:05.9. Both men received second-team all-conference honors.

“Across the board they all stepped up and ran aggressively,” said Croghan. “I’m happy with the way we competed.”

Although Croghan and the runners approached the championship with victory in mind, both the men and their coach were pleased with the team’s third-place finish.

“We wanted to finish higher, but we ran the best race we’ve ever ran as a team,” said Scullion. “I don’t think we could have done any more. There are just deeper teams out there.”

Croghan agreed that the men’s team ran its best and had expected it would finish third.

“On paper we knew we were sitting about third,” said Croghan. “We didn’t want to sit back and run for third. We wanted to be aggressive, and we ran for the win.”

Croghan said the women’s performance wasn’t as predictable.

“The women’s race was disappointing,” Croghan said. “In the back of my mind, I thought that if we ran an exceptional race, we would be in the top three. I thought if we ran an average race, we would finish fifth or sixth. To finish eighth was a disappointment.”

Croghan said there were a few standout performances individually, but the women failed to step it up as a team.

“(Junior) Kelly Gephart had an exceptional performance, and so did (sophomore) Allison Krupko,” Croghan said.

Gephart ran her best race of the season, leading the women’s team by finishing 12th with a time of 17:40. Gephart was selected to the Women’s All-MAC Second Team.

“The whole race I was just telling myself to remain focused and give myself an opportunity, and it worked out really well,” Gephart said.

Gephart was followed by sophomore Kassandra Meholick, who had led the women in every race this season. Meholick took 30th with a time of 18:09.7. Krupko finished 35th with a time of 18:16.5, senior Sarah McCourt placed 51st with a time of 18:32.7 and sophomore Jessica Lhotsky finished 56th with a time of 18:40.5.

“It was a different kind of eighth-place finish than last year,” Croghan said. “Both myself and the team know we’re better that, so it’s a hard thing to swallow.”

Last year, Meholick led the women at the MAC Championship after finishing 33rd.

“I was disappointed with my race,” Meholick said. “I wanted to finish higher than I did last year, and I finished about the same.”

Meholick said she lacked the concentration that Gephart had during her performance.

“If I could do it again, I would be more focused,” said Meholick. “I wasn’t focused, and it showed.”

Both the men and the women will head into the Great Lakes Regional Championship Nov. 15 looking to perform better.

“Last year, the women’s team bounced back at the regional meet after a disappointing MAC. We competed with nothing to lose, and we can step it up with that kind of performance again,” Croghan said. “The men are continuing to build something here. Being 10th in the region last year, we’re looking to break inside the top 10. Both teams have to continue to step it up to another level.”

Contact sports reporter Brittany Tatgenhorst at [email protected].