Cross country teams unable to match MAC Championship improvement goals

Thomas Gallick

The men’s cross country team finished sixth and the women’s team finished ninth in disappointing races at the Mid-American Conference Championships at Central Michigan Saturday.

Coach Mark Croghan said the goal for the men’s team was an improvement on last year’s team mark of third place, but the team only achieved a sixth place finish in a field of nine teams.

“We were hoping for a top-two finish and sixth place is a big disappointment,” Croghan said. “We didn’t get it done up front.”

Junior Joe Parker finished in 20th place, the best finish on the men’s side. Freshman Scott Hilditch and sophomore Aiman Scullion, typically the team’s front-runners, finished in 26th and 30th place, respectively.

“We were hoping Aiman and Scott could be in the top 10, or at least the top 15,” Croghan said. “That didn’t happen and the team was kind of shook up.”

Croghan said he was pleased with the way seniors Ray Armstrong and Ryan Spellman ran, even if they did not finish as high as they would have liked. Spellman finished 31st and Armstrong finished 33rd in a field of 76.

Josh Perrin of Eastern Michigan won the men’s race with a time of 24:33.0, more than 4 seconds ahead of the next-best finisher. Eastern Michigan runners finished in first, third, fifth and 10th places to take the men’s team title.

The women’s team improved on last year’s finish of 10th place in the MAC Championships with a ninth place showing this year. Twelve teams competed in the women’s race, with an individual field of 104 runners.

Kassandra Meholick finished first for the women’s team again this week, a feat she has accomplished in all of the team’s previous races this season. Meholick finished in 33rd place overall in the individual competition.

Croghan said the women’s team could have easily finished much higher in the event.

“I think realistically we were hoping for a top-five finish,” Croghan said. “We’re disappointed with the overall performance of the team because we didn’t execute our race plan and that really cost us.”

Laura Neufarth, of Miami, won the individual women’s competition with a time of 17:35.2, more than 3 seconds ahead of the second-place runner. Ohio won the team event with the fifth-, sixth- and seventh-place runners.

Sophomore Kelly Gephart and freshman Allison Krupko also finished in the top 50 for the women’s team, with Gephart finishing 36th and Krupko finishing 42nd overall.

Gephart said she viewed the race as a helpful experience for the young runners on the team who hope to improve in the conference next year.

“We’ve been successful this season and this whole year has been a learning experience for us,” Gephart said. “Hopefully we can do more damage in the MAC next year.”

The men’s and women’s cross country teams will run next at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Meet in Bloomington, Ind., on Nov. 10.

Contact cross country reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].