Cross country team prepares to run up the MAC standings

Brittany Tatgenhorst

Sophomore Jessica Lhotsky looks to carry over her success of the spring season to this fall. Tom Cammet|Diamond Images

Credit: DKS Editors

New recruits and returning standouts have Kent State coach Mark Croghan optimistic about the 2008 cross country season. Junior Aiman Scullion returns to lead the men’s team after a successful sophomore year in both track and cross country, while a more experienced women’s team looks to break out this year.

Scullion finished third with a time of 30 minutes, 11.47 seconds in the 10,000-meter run at the Mid-American Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championship in May, and he will try to continue his strong showing during the cross country season.

“Given what he did last year during the outdoor track season,” Croghan said, “I think he showed that he is one of the better distance runners in the conference.”

The Salem native is looking to fill the team captain position this fall.

“This year I want to play more of a role in leading the team by example,” Scullion said.

Croghan said he expects runners such as seniors Tony Jordanek, Joe Parker and sophomore John Minen, who are known for their success in middle-distance events, to add depth to the team.

“These guys also had success on the track,” Croghan said. “I think that they’re going to be a big part of this team’s success.”

Jordanek finished second in the mile run with a time of 4:16.93 at the MAC Indoor Track and Field Championship. Parker finished sixth in the 3,000-meter run at the MAC outdoor championship with a time of 9:19.59. Minen ran the 1,500-meter run with a time of 4:04.63, taking fifth at the championship.

Sophomore Kassandra Meholick returns to the women’s team eager to succeed after sitting out the indoor and outdoor track seasons because of a broken foot.

“She ran really well last year as a freshman,” Croghan said. “I’m sure she’s looking to improve on her performances.”

Meholick was the top Kent State finisher at the MAC Cross Country Championship last year, placing 33rd with a time of 18:44.1.

“I would like to do a lot better at the MAC meet this year,” Meholick said. “That’s the goal I’m really gearing towards.”

Like the men’s team, the women’s team is also counting on middle-distance runners to contribute.

Redshirt sophomore Jessica Lhotsky had an impressive indoor track season, finishing second in the 800-meter run at the MAC indoor championship with a time of 2:12.89. Junior Kelly Gephart took third in the 1,500-meter run at the 2008 MAC outdoor championship with a time of 4:44.73. Both runners will join Meholick in leading the women’s team in 2008.

Croghan expects to see freshman Audrey Maheu succeed in her first season of college running.

“I think she will come in and contribute right off the bat,” Croghan said.

Maheu holds the Ohio Division III state record for the 800 with a time of 2:12.32. The record was set last year when she placed first in the event. Maheu also made history at John F. Kennedy High School as the first women’s runner to qualify for the State Cross Country Meet. Maheu will help the women’s team rebound from a disappointing 2007 season.

“I think we have two solid groups,” Croghan said of the 2008 runners.

The men’s team is projected to finish in a tie with Central Michigan for third place in the MAC after finishing sixth in the 2007 MAC Championship. The women’s team is selected to finish eighth in the conference after placing ninth at last year’s championship. The Kent State cross country team begins its season with the Short Course Open held at home on Friday.

“I would like to see us improve on the performances we had last year,” Croghan said, “particularly in the MAC Championship.”

Contact sports reporter Brittany Tatgenhorst at [email protected]