Women’s XC outruns men’s team for first time all season as MAC finale looms closer

James Goddard, Reporter

Cross country coach James Croft said, “The women were definitely the highlight of the weekend.”

The Kent State women’s program placed sixth out of 13 teams in the 6k race at the Falcon Invitational in Bowling Green Friday.

The women ended with a final score of 171 and an average running time of 23:01. The men did not place.

“We had a couple of people sit out because of little hiccups in the training,” Croft said. “Regardless, the team put together our best race of the season so far.”

Croft attributes the successful race to correcting the wrongs from their previous two meets.

“Michigan, we got out well, but then we lost touch in the middle of the race,” Croft said. “Louisville, we got pushed to the back, and we couldn’t recover until halfway through the race.”

The Flashes placed ninth at the Spartan Invitational and 30th at the Louisville Classic.

The third year coach’s solution was simple: combine what went right at both meets to make a cohesive race for the team.

“At Bowling Green, they got out well, and then they were able to either hold their position or move up from where they were,” Croft said. “They put the Michigan State and Louisville races together into a complete race at Bowling Green.”

Graduate student Leah Lisle led KSU’s women’s team, placing 19th out of 140 runners. She finished with a time of 22:18.

“I put myself in the race,” Lisle said. “I did a good job of getting out at the start. Our box was all the way on the far side, and we had to make a push so we didn’t get boxed in the first kilometer.”

Senior Nina Zraik, senior Nicole DiCicco, sophomore Sydney Gallagher, freshman Ariana Manos, sophomore Anna Jones and freshman Nicole Kuehner rounded out the seven scoring runners for the team.

They all finished less than three minutes after Lisle.

“We wanted to make a better showing as a team and to get the gap in time between down,” Lisle said. “Sometimes it’s almost a minute gap, so we were able to close that down by quite a bit.”

Kent State’s ability to close that space led them to a finish with little variation in time.

“We put together a very strong team performance,” Croft said. “Everyone from our sixth [finishing runner] to our last girl had a PR.”

The men’s team set multiple personal bests at the Falcon Invitational, with three runners running collegiate personal-record times.

“We sat out our top seven, and we only raced four guys,” Croft said. “For them, it was about getting more experienced with the 8k and seeing where they are fitness-wise.”

Croft said it was a straightforward decision to sit out the Flashes’ top seven runners for the men’s team.

“At Louisville, we had some illness that week,” Croft said. “I was surprised that the guys were even able to run – racing takes it out of you and it almost weakens your immune system more. We just needed to take a step back and let the guys recover.”

Sitting his top men out was probably the best choice to make heading into the Mid-American Conference meet, Croft said.

“It was the best move that we could have done for their health and fitness,” Croft said. “They’re going to be ready, and the men are feeling really confident and prepared to show up.”

The Flashes’ run next at the MAC championship Oct. 28th at Ohio University.

“All of our races have been getting faster as the season goes on,” Lisle said. “Typically by MAC, we’re racing even faster than our other races of the season. This was a good indicator that we’re going to run even better.”

James Goddard is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].