The difference between a first and second-place victory in the opening race of the season came down to after-meet math.
This, however, was not a surprise for the men’s cross-country team.
“Everything went pretty much according to plan,” junior Joe Farley said. “Toledo’s guys went out fast. We were expecting that.”
The men finished second out of six teams at the Ohio University XC Invitational Friday, with Toledo in first. The Flashes had a score of 36, which tied with the Rockets, and an average time of 15:38.
The tiebreaker was broken by comparing the placement of the five scoring members of each team. Toledo’s top-three finishers placed higher than Kent’s top-three finishers.
Farley placed fourth overall and second for his team, finishing at 15:32. Sophomore Baidy Ba led the Flashes with a time of 15:22. Toledo had the top two runners of the meet.
Ba, who ran in the top three for his team every meet last season, shared his strategy going into the race.
“I wasn’t too worried about individual placement,” Ba said. “That can be a different race. I wanted to help them, and they helped me as we worked together until that last mile. It’s about winning as a team.”
Farley placed fourth with a time of 15:32. He has been experiencing some health problems since last season and is currently on the rebound.
“I wanted to go out there and put my best effort forward,” Farley said.
Three other runners finished in under 16 minutes. Shadrack Kipkosgei, a junior transfer from Louisville, ended with a time of 15:39. Sophomore Jonah Cuestas finished with a time of 15:44.
Junior Ethan Yost ran his first-ever 5k on Friday and finished with a time of 15:49. He said he is excited to return to the course for the MAC Championships Oct. 29.
“I loved the course,” Yost said. “It’s a fast course. I can’t wait to come back for MACs.”
The women’s team placed third out of six teams at the invitational with a total score of 90 and an average time of 19:20.
Head coach James Croft commented on how the women’s team was able to push through the race.
“The men and women both had similar strategies, which was to run together in the groups they’ve been training in,” Croft said.
Graduate student Leah Lisle said her team had a strong start to the season.
“We know what we need to work on and how we’re gonna apply it to a longer race,” Lisle said. “I think we’re going to be able to improve.”
Lisle placed ninth overall, the best result from her team, with a final time of 18:42.
“The race went out really fast,” Lisle said. “That first mile definitely was a bit of a shock because you’re expecting to settle in mile two, but then you get to the last couple kilometers, and you’re just still pushing.”
Graduate student Stephanie Ward is awaiting an eligibility waiver decision, so she did not compete.
Senior Nicole DiCicco, senior Nina Zraik and freshman Ariana Manos were the 3-4-5 runners, or third, fourth and fifth-place scorers on their team, respectively. The three women run together.
“Mentally, we were trying to focus as much as we could and trust in our training,” Zraik said. “We were trying to stay engaged at all points of the race, looking around, seeing what’s going on.”
DiCicco placed 31st with a time of 19:26, and Manos finished 36th with a time of 19:41
DiCicco kept a similar mentality to Zraik, saying the race took a group effort.
“Instead of focusing on the individual,” DiCicco said, “we focused on where we were as a pack.”
After the meet, Croft recognized freshman Libby Shields, who ran her first collegiate race Friday. She set a personal record for a 5K race with a time of 19:46.
“I know she has big goals and was a little bit nervous going into it, but to see her PR on the first college race ever is awesome,” Croft said.
The Ohio Bobcats took home first for the women’s race, and the Toledo Rockets placed second.
The Flashes’ next meet is the Spartan Invitational Sept. 16, starting 11 a.m. at Eastern Michigan.
Croft had seven words for his team’s plan moving forward: “It’s pretty simple, just keep on running.”
Croft said the teams are in a good place advancing into the season.
“It’s right where we want to be,” Croft said. “It’s right where I thought we were. It’s nice to check it off our list and know that we’re on pace for where we want to be in the season.”
Recently promoted director of track and field and cross country Nathan Fanger agreed. He said the program is still growing.
“As the new guy in charge, the goal is to put the right people in the place to do what they need to do,” Fanger said. “On the men’s side, they’ve got a strong team. We want to be fighting for the top spots, no question. The women’s side is still developable.”
James Goddard is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]