The NCAA Midwest Regional in Peoria, Ill., last Saturday wasn’t just the final meet of the season for Bulldog runners, but it was also the final meet of four seniors’ collegiate careers. Casey McDermott, Tara Scieszinski, Meredith Bell and Katie Coomer went out in style, as the four placed first through fourth for the Bulldogs, respectively. All four finished in the top 120 out of 188 runners, earning the team a 16th place finish. Drake finished in front of Missouri Valley Conference rivals Bradley and Southern Illinois.
McDermott was the first Bulldog across the finish line of the 6000-meter course with a time of 21 minutes, 31.37 seconds. She placed 57th in the race, making her the only member of the team to finish in the top half of all runners.
Within a minute of McDermott, Scieszinski edged out Eastern Illinois runner Olivia Klaus by three seconds to finish in the top 100, placing 99th with a time of 22:06.87. Fellow Iowa native Bell finished 13 spots and less than 20 seconds behind Scieszinski, placing 112th. Only five seconds separated Bell from 112th and 116th, where Coomer finished. Coomer finished with a time of 22:30.76.
The next generation of Drake runners followed Coomer closely though, as freshman Erin Poss finished in 127th with a time of 22:39.86. Drake didn’t have another runner finish for a little over 40 seconds, which led to 25 runners finishing between Poss and junior Kirsten Lake, who crossed the finish line in 23:19.54. Lake ran much of the course with freshman teammate Amanda Marwitz, who finished close behind with a time of 23:21.56, in 155th.
All Drake runners crossed the finish line before Bradley, Southern Illinois and Creighton. No Missouri Valley Conference team finished in the top five, but Wichita State did earn a 10th place finish. Illinois State and Missouri State edged Drake, which was the fourth team from the MVC to finish
The Drake men’s squad turned to four first-year runners to lead the charge. Omet Kak, Brogan Austin, Ryan Flynn and Doug Brady ran their first 10,000-meter course of their collegiate careers, which is a little more than six miles. Unfortunately for the young squad, the team’s top runner all season, Kak, dropped out of the race after the 6,000-meter mark.
“Adding that extra two [kilometers] made it harder to do, conditions were colder, battling the weather and the climate,” Brady said.
Without Drake’s top runner in the race, Austin picked up the pace for the team and was the first Bulldog across the finish line. Austin was the only Drake runner in the top half of the meet of 171 finishers by placing 58th with a time of 31:28.29.
Junior Colin Hagan was the next Bulldog across the line just over a minute after Austin, placing 102nd with a time of 32:30.89. Flynn finished just seven seconds behind Hagan to place 108th.
Drake’s lone senior, Mike Bumgarner, trailed Flynn and took 113th place with a time of 32:46.65 in the final cross-country race of his collegiate career.
“If there was anyone who stood out, it was Mike,” Brady said of his teammate. “He had a great race yesterday.”
Junior Ben Jaskowiak and Brady finished fifth and sixth, respectively, for the Bulldogs, closely following each other across the finish line. Jaskowiak took 120th with a time of 32:53.34, and Brady crossed the line not a second later with a time of 32:53.68.
The Bulldogs are done for the cross-country season, as neither squad qualified for the NCAA National Championship. The teams now looks forward to the distance events of track and field, which begins on Dec. 10, 2010, in Ames, Iowa, for the Iowa State Holiday Preview.
Drake is looking forward to the track and field debuts of its freshmen, as Austin and Kak were arguably the two best long-distance runners in Iowa high school track and field last year. Austin was the winner of the 1600- and 3200-meter races at the 2010 Iowa Class 3A state track meet. Kak was also a winner of the mile and two-mile events at the Iowa state meet in the 4A section.
“We’ve got 10 freshmen on the guys side, we knew it would be a lot of developing. I expect good things out of this group; we are all comparable with our times and training, a good way for us to start our NCAA running,” Brady said.
NCAA Midwest Regional Top Performers
Men – 10,000 meters
58. Brogan Austin 31:28.29
102. Colin Hagan 32:30.89
108. Ryan Flynn 32:37.20
Women – 6,000 meters
57. Casey McDermott 21:31.37
99. Tara Scieszinski 22:06.87
112. Meredith Bell 22:25.16