ANKENY – Southwestern cross country opened the season Saturday, showing signs of a good base for the 2020 cross country season.
The Spartans, ranked No. 9 in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCA) NJCAA Div. I rankings, showed out with a solid performance on the mens’ end. The Spartan men placed sixth with a score of 159. The women did not score, with one runner placing.
Excitement going into the first meet was clear, said SWCC head coach Scott Vicker. He mentioned previous meets getting cancelled before finally hitting the course Saturday, which built into the anticipation.
“I think there was a lot of excitement, with our first meet getting cancelled. Starting the season a week later than we anticipated, we went into the week knowing that the original meet we had was cancelled and we found a new one to go to,” said Vicker. “... There was a lot of excitement and anticipation to race because there was so much uncertainty even a few days before the meet. We were really grateful to Grand View that they were set up and ready to host at a moment’s notice so we could get a meet in.”
Leading into the season, the Spartans showed a lot of progress entering Saturday. Vicker said the expectations weren’t too high, but expected them to compete well in the season-opening meet.
“The kids have been working really hard all summer and so far this fall, ... we’ve been practicing since August 4 as a team. Their workouts have been going great,” said Vicker. “We knew ... there was potential to run some fast times. We didn’t really put any big expectations or pressure on the kids to do anything in particular on Saturday. We just wanted them to go out and compete, and overall we were really happy with the result.”
Impressing to start
The Spartans had one woman runner in Mazzy Hummel, who finished 46th with a time of 26:06.02. The Southwest Valley product started last fall with the Spartans, but did not finish the season.
Vicker was happy to see Hummel return for the 2020 season, and is extremely happy to have her back in the mix for the women.
“We were just super happy that Mazzy decided to come back this year. She started the year with us last year and didn’t finish the season, so we were really excited she came back out and compete for us. She’s made some really big strides in the last couple of weeks training with us,” Vicker said.
After starting with the program late in the season, Vicker knows there’s some things to overcome for Hummel, but has faith in her progress.
“I know the meet didn’t go the way she wanted. I think she had some mental battles with herself once she got on the line since it had been a year since she last competed, but I have all the confidence in the world in Mazzy that she’ll have learned on Saturday and be ready to go (today) and have a much better result,” said Vicker. “Just based off what I’ve seen from her in workouts, I think we’ll see her drop quite a bit of time.”
On the mens’ side, the group was led by Nodaway Valley alumni Josh Baudler with a time of 16:48.8. Baudler placed 13th, well ahead of the second runner for SWCC in Connor Koppa.
Koppa, a Red Oak product, ran a time of 18:19.2 for 46th. Nicholas Mather (18:53.4) and Levi Detrick (19:16.3) placed 57th and 62nd, respectively. Vicker liked what he saw out of the three, feeling there’s a lot of room to improve as the season goes on.
“As far as times go, I was really happy with what all of the guys ran. Connor, running a lifetime PR for a 5K, super excited about that,” said Vicker. “He’s put in great work all summer and has been running No. 2 for us in every workout this year. ... I think there’s still more in the tank for (Koppa) even at that longer distance.
“Levi and Nick, our two Shenandoah guys, I thought they ran pretty well. They got out a little conservative, but moved up pretty well in the race. I know that’s how Levi prefers to race,” said Vicker. “... I think he did a great job of continuing to battle throughout the race, same as Nick. We’re just going to have to keep working on moving them up in the pack. ... It’s just a matter of time for those guys to see a breakthrough.”
With the unexpected nature of the 2020 sports season, every race is taken as a blessing. Each meet is to be taken as potentially the last of the season, said Vicker, and that every opportunity given to compete will be capitalized on.
“I told the kids, we’re going to be happy about every chance we get to compete,” said Vicker. “But, since we don’t know how this year is going to go, we need to be ready to take advantage of every opportunity we get. We need to treat each meet like it’s going to be our last. ... They understand it and they’re doing the best they can to put themselves in the best position to not be affected by COVID. ... They’ve got the right mindset, for sure.”
Going up to 8K
After racing in a 5K for the opening meet of the season, Vicker feels the change to the 8K distance for the rest of the season will be a challenge, but is one them Spartans will be ready for.
Workouts Vicker went through at the Div. I level while he was at St. Louis University are the same ones the Spartans are going through now. Vicker feels the team has responded well to the workouts, and will show the benefits of it soon.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well the workouts have gone. I definitely haven’t taken it easy on them in workouts, ... the guys had and (girls) had just crushed the workout. I was really excited about it. ... It’s just a matter of time. I think we’re a few weeks away, before we start seeing the benefit of those workouts.”
Vicker relayed the workouts to former teammates of his, and former Div. I runners called it a ‘big boy’ workout, reassuring Vicker he’s making his runners work hard to improve as they prep for their first 8K race of the season.
The Spartan men also had Ahmed Foana run, placing 68th with a time of 21:20.1, and Leland Perkins, finishing 68th at a time of 21:20.1.
Southwestern’s other woman runner Tori Reynolds did not run.
UP NEXT – SWCC runs at the Viking Invitational today (Friday) at 6:10 p.m. in Ankeny.