INDIANOLA – The Southwestern Spartans’ cross country team hit the trails again Friday afternoon, this time at Pickard Park in Indianola at the Bill Buxton Invitational.
The Spartans had admirable finishes in their second race of the season, with the men coming in seventh and the women coming in ninth.
The Spartan men finished the afternoon with 159 points, 20 shy of Graceland’s 179 for sixth.
Sophomore Cedrick Watson was the front runner for the Spartans, running a 21:23.6 for 31st place. Colin Shreve was not far behind him, clocking a 21:31.4 to improve his time at the track by 13 seconds from the year prior.
“We aren’t really that far away from some teams and we’re kind of a week behind where we typically would be,” said Southwestern head coach Trey Bruton. “I think with we had this last week that we had, this week is going be a good step forward for us.”
Alex Vandoor finished 39th with a time of 21:39.1 and Josh Carstens clocked in at 22:06 for 43rd. Skyler Rawlings was the final scoring runner for SWCC with a time of 22:42 for 52nd.
“We are a decent amount slower than we were last year, but I kind of expected this to be slower anyway with how I have (had) them trained because I don’t want them to peak too early,” said Bruton.
Fontanelle native Austin Lundy improved his time by 1:38 for a 55th place time of 22:51.3
“I was happy with it and I thought we did really well for where we’re at,” said Bruton. “... We still didn’t get what’s going to be one of our top guys in. ... Once we get the full squad in, hopefully we’ll take off here once everyone can get going and get everything underneath us.”
George Kimutai, a Kenyan-born transfer from St. Thomas University, has yet to run this season due to a transcript issue. Fortunately for the Spartans, he is expected to be ready to go by Friday.
“We should be able to run him this week,” said Bruton. “This Friday he should run. I had been planning on having him run.”
The Spartan women showed a trend in the right direction Friday with multiple runners improving on their times from the year prior.
Of the four returning runners who raced at Pickard Park the year prior, three posted improvements from the 2018 time.
Dani Costain ran a 21:27.1, a 1:50 improvement from the year prior, for 50th-place. She was joined by Elenani Tinai, who was second for the Spartans with a time of 21:52.0, finishing 52nd.
Tinai’s time was 1:33 better than her time from last year.
“I was really impressed with how much better we were with one week to the next,” said Bruton. “It was a major turn around for a lot of girls on the team. Seeing their times and how much they improved and where they would have been, I was impressed.”
Hannah Thompson continued the trend of finishes in the 50s, running a 22:32.9 for a 54th-place spot. Fane Sauvakacolo was not far behind her with a 56th-place time of 22:42.2.
Bri Hoffman ran a 23:01.5 for 57th place, a result that Bruton feels has a lot of room for improvement once she’s 100 percent healthy.
“She’s got a lot of talent, but has also been suffering from a shin injury,” said Bruton. “Once we can get her healed ... Bri can help (be a leading runner) and get up there if healthy. We just can’t quite figure out what the shin issue is to get her to not run with pain.”
Overall the Spartan runners have left a good feeling on Bruton. The good feeling, however, comes with a feeling that there’s still potential to grow on each side.
“Our guys have some talent and they’ve got a lot of room for improvement, but I think our ladies have even more room for improvement,” said Bruton. “It could surprise a few people. We’re not going to be contending for anything nationally, a top-25 (ranking) would be a pretty big stretch, but if we could get closer to it I would be pretty happy on the ladies side.”
UP NEXT – The Spartans hit the trails again Friday at 5:30 p.m. at South East Polk Course in Pleasant Hill for the Viking Cross Country Invitational.