Runners start with early short course

Thomas Gallick

The Kent State men’s and women’s cross country team hosts the Short Course Open today in an event that coach Mark Croghan says is vital to team confidence.

“Certainly it’s important if we keep things in perspective,” Croghan said. “You never know where the team will be in that first race.”

In previous years, the team hosted a short course event the week preceding the Mid-American Conference Cross Country Championship, forcing some of the Flashes’ top runners to not participate due to fear of injury. By moving the event up in the season, the Flashes look to benefit from the extra work.

“I consider this the season opener,” Croghan said. “It’s not just a glorified practice because Malone, OSU and Ashland have all traditionally done well in their conferences.”

Croghan, a three-time competitor in the Olympic steeplechase event, said his goals include a top-five finish in the MAC for the women and a top-two finish for the men. Freshmen Allison Krupko and Kassandra Meholick will make an immediate impact for the women, and he expects the same from newcomers on the men’s team.

“The four freshmen we have coming in on the men’s team are certainly capable of stepping in and contributing,” Croghan said.

Two senior runners – Ray Armstong and Ryan Spellman – are returning to the men’s team, while three return for the women’s – Brittany Durkin, Erin Saztger and Suzanne Spettell. Croghan said the veterans are important to helping the incoming athletes give their peak performance.

“The juniors and seniors who have returned have helped the freshmen get into a new routine,” Croghan said. “Certainly everyone is going to have to contribute whether they are a freshman or a senior.”

The men’s team finished third at the MAC Cross Country Championship last year, while the women’s team finished eighth.

Traditionally men’s cross country teams run eight- or 10-kilometer courses, while the women’s team runs five- or six-kilometer courses. For the short course open the men will run five kilometers and the women will run three.

Contact sports reporter Thomas Gallick at [email protected].