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Cross-Country Sports

‘Race-fit’ Bulldogs ready for MVC Championships

The Drake women’s and men’s cross country teams concluded their regular season action on Oct. 12 at the Bradley Classic as the Bulldogs gear up for the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Championships on Oct. 27. Four members of the men’s cross country teams also participated in the NCAA Pre-National Meet on Oct. 13.

Junior Brogan Austin, sophomore Conor Wells, fifth-year senior Charlie Lapham and freshman Rob McCann represented the Bulldogs at the Pre-National Meet.

Austin led the way for the Bulldogs, finishing in 15th place with a time of 24:41.5. Austin was followed by Lapham in 61st place (24:47.7), Wells in 96th place (25:40.8) and McCann in 99th place (25:41.3). The field included 278 runners.

The 8-kilometer race took place at Louisville’s E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in a preview of next month’s NCAA Championships that will take place at the same venue. Drake did not compete as a team in the unseeded Black flight of the meet. Drake utilized a split squad this weekend with the bulk of the team competing at Bradley on Oct. 12.

Despite leading the Bulldogs, Austin was not satisfied with his performance and explained that he has been dealing with a medical condition this season.

“To be honest, I was pretty disappointed with how I performed. I just found out that I’m anemic, so I haven’t been racing well all season,” Austin said. “I’ve been low on my hemoglobin levels. So, I’ve been running pretty poorly all year and just found that out a couple days ago, so hopefully we can get that all fixed up and I can run better the rest of the season. But, otherwise I was pretty disappointed with how I raced at Pre-Nationals.”

Austin is looking forward to having a strong showing at the MVC Championships despite the recent news he received.

“I’m just having to take supplements to get my blood level back. I backed off the training a little bit, so I’m not taking as much beating,” Austin said. “I’m hoping to bounce back for conference and hopefully, regionals. It’s going to take a while to get back up, but hopefully, it makes a big enough difference by conference so I can compete well enough. I would like to win the MVC (Individuals) again, and I would like to qualify for nationals this year for the first time.”

At the Bradley Classic, held at the Newman Golf course in Peoria, Ill., the women’s cross country team finished in 11th place out of a field of 23 teams with a total of 298 points. Illinois State took home the title with a total of 102 points.

Despite finishing 11th in the competition, almost every Bulldog ran a personal best. Drake was led by fifth-year senior Kristen Lake who finished in 13th place, clocking in at 21:37. Freshmen Taylor Scholl, Emma Huston and Cassie Aerts followed Lake across the finish line.

Scholl finished 39th with a time of 22:02, Huston came in 70th place at 22:36 and Aerts finished in 87th place with a time of 22:50.

A shorthanded men’s cross country squad totaled 312 points to claim 13th place out of a field of 18 teams. Southern Illinois recorded 54 points to finish in the top spot. Senior Mike Rodriguez led the way for Drake, finishing in 36th place with a time of 25:29.

“It’s kind of hard to judge because we had four of our top guys were running at the Pre-National Meet the next day, so we were shorthanded,” Rodriguez said. “So, it was a good opportunity to see our team’s depth and kind of see where our middle runners stack up against other teams in the Missouri Valley (Conference).”

Sophomore Tyler Nelson had a strong showing as well, placing in 56th place with a time of 25:54. Junior Guy Eckman finished four seconds later, claiming 62nd place.

The Bulldogs got the chance to see Southern Illinois for the first time this season, one of the top contenders to claim the MVC title.

“One thing that’s really good about the Bradley meet is that it’s our first opportunity to see Southern Illinois. So, it was really good to see where our team stacked up, running on the same course on the same day, so a really good comparison,” Rodriguez said. “But, I thought we did OK. We’ve been a lot better. Some guys certainly had better races than others, but overall, I’d say the results were encouraging, and the meet showed that we’re getting to be a lot more race-fit now.”

The men’s and women’s cross country squads were not in action this weekend as they get ready for the MVC Championships that will be held next Saturday, Oct. 27, in Bloomington, Ill.

At this point in the season, there’s not much more Drake can do to prepare or train for the conference meet.

“There’s an expression in running we use a lot of time called, ‘The hay is in the barn.’ What that means is, when you get a workout, it usually takes about anywhere from 14 to 20 days to get back,” Rodriguez said. “So, at this point in the year, all the main fitness gains we’ve received from previous workouts have pretty much gone. We want our legs to be fresh and ready to run fast, so we do a little less running than usual.”

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