STORY BY COLTON WARREN
Senior Brogan Austin led the Drake cross country team yet again, this time guiding the men’s squad to a 12th place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional Race in Peoria, Illinois.
Austin’s sixth-place finish individually also earned him a berth in the NCAA Championships next weekend.
Austin completed the 10-kilometer race in 30 minutes and 16.5 seconds. A late surge from Austin moved him up four spots in the final kilometer of the race, and into national qualifying territory.
“Brogan put in an outstanding effort to punch his ticket to nationals,” said Drake head cross-country coach Dan Hostager. “It was an outstanding field with a lot of nationally ranked teams and individuals, all with same qualification goal. So Brogan had to run a smart race, and not just a gutsy one, as there was very little margin for error.”
Hostager was especially impressed with Austin’s race, simply based on the challenge posed in trying to advance from a packed field.
“From a statistical standpoint, Cross Country is the hardest NCAA sport to advance to nationals due to the few qualifiers,” Hostager said. “Brogan has put in a ton of work and made a lot of sacrifices over the years to get to this point, so he’ll certainly be motivated to finish out his collegiate cross-country career on a high note.”
Hostager said he knows his senior leader won’t be fazed by the tough competition on a big stage.
“He’ll be going up the nation’s very best, but won’t be intimidated,” Hostager said.
Behind Austin for the Bulldogs was senior Connor Wells, who finished 57th with a time of 31:05.8. Reed Fischer finished just shy of Wells’ time, posting a 31:08 finish, good for 60th overall.
Rounding out the scoring five for Drake was junior Rob McCann (31:39.9) and fifth-year senior Doug Brady (31:49.7), who finished 92nd and 110th, respectively.
Hostager noted had it not been for a late misfortune, the Bulldogs may have been able to jump into the top 10 as a team.
“One of our guys got tripped up late in the race, so that probably cost us a spot in the top eight teams,” Hostager said. “But, we were able to finish ahead of some ranked teams and also move ahead of some MVC conference teams that had beaten us earlier this year.”
The women’s squad raced to a 19th place finish out of 32 teams in its six-kilometer race on Saturday.
Three runners finished in the top half of the field, headed by junior Emma Huston’s 42nd place finish after submitting a time of 21:04.1.
Krista Maguire was the next Bulldog to cross the finish line, posting a time of 21:29.1, good for 71st. Taylor Scholl followed Maguire with an 86th place finish at 21:36.3.
Erica Bestul and Melissa Parks posted 152nd and 160th place finishes, respectively, to complete Drake’s scoring on the day.
Hostager was pleased with the way his squads finished the season against stiff competition.
“As a team, both our men and women put in outstanding efforts to finish on a great note,” Hostager said. “We hadn’t been regionally ranked all fall, but our men were able to finish 12th and our women 19th in a very strong region containing mostly Big 10 and Big 12 teams.”
Hostager added many of his racers finished with personal bests, something that will help motivate his runners going into track season.
“Most of the men and women also came away from the meet with personal bests, so that will be tremendous motivation, not only for next fall’s cross-country campaign but, also for the upcoming track season,” Hostager said.