FORT DODGE – Southwestern cross country hit the links at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course one more time for the fall season Friday afternoon, running in the NJCAA Div. I National Championships.
The Spartan men ran as a squad, placing 21st with a score of 537. The Iowa Central men were the winners, scoring 65. The SWCC women didn’t run.
Leading the way for SWCC was Josh Baudler. The Nodaway Valley alumnus had previous success at Lakeside, qualifying for the race two weeks ago at Regionals and winning a state race in high school a little over a year ago.
Entering the race, SWCC head coach Scott Vicker said he felt the experience helped Baudler, and there was potential for him finishing as an all-American in the top-25.
“I think with it being a course he’s familiar with, and has a lot of success on, that obviously helped out a lot and gave him a lot of confidence going into the race (Friday),” said Vicker. “We knew going in he’d have an outside chance of getting all-America honors. We knew he’d have to run his best race of the season to do that. We felt he was capable of it, and he got out and put himself in position where he gave himself a chance.”
Baudler’s 38th-place finish saw him post a time of 27:16.71.
“He just kind of ran out of steam the last two kilometers of the race. For him to finish 38th as a freshman, and cut as much time off this year as he did, I think he still had a successful season,” Vicker said. “I know the result wasn’t what he wanted, but if there’s one thing I know about Josh it’s that he’s a competitor and when something motivates him, he works his tail off to get there.”
Finishing behind Baudler was Connor Koppa (122nd, 30:39.60), Nicholas Mather (126nd, 30:55.39), Ahmed Fofana (137th, 32:12.07), Levi Detrick (141st, 33:02.96) and Leland Perkins (147th, 36:31.86). Closing the gaps between one another was a big part of trying to get the Spartans into the top-20 in team scoring.
“We felt like we had a shot (as a team) at being top-20. If we just ran a perfect race one through five, maybe could even get into the top-17, so we kind of put our race plans together (for that),” said Vicker. “We told them Friday night during our team meeting that Koppa and Mather were going to be the biggest keys to our success. We figured Josh would be upfront, ... where we were going to make the biggest difference was getting Connor and Nicholas to move up.”
Mather and Fofana’s time were new personal records. The Spartans had a 12-second team average of 30:49, which was improved from two weeks ago.
“Connor ended up being one second off of his PR, and Nicholas ran another big PR. They ran really well,” said Vicker. “... They didn’t quite place where we had hoped, but they ran the best races they could, and I can’t fault them for that at all. I’m really happy with how they ran, especially Nicholas.”
Vicker explained how he worked with Mather on getting out ahead faster early in races to prevent Mather from working with more traffic, which helped him en route to his PR.
Going forward, it’s a two-week layoff for the Spartans before resuming activities for indoor track and field season.
“They get a chance to rest their legs and get healthy. I kind of felt like we were walking a very thin line the last month of the season health-wise,” Vicker said. “... We were trying to keep everyone as healthy as we could for the championship. ... We’ll rest and then get started training for track. The biggest thing for these guys is they’ll all be going different directions with what they’re going to end up running event-wise.”
With the track and field season next for SWCC, Vicker said all the cross country boys will run track while neither Tori Reynolds or Mazzy Hummel join the group in the next season.
Vicker mentioned increasing each runner’s weekly mileage to prep for the indoor season, calling it “the biggest thing for them” in order to show improvements and have a stronger base going into the next season.
“I’m excited for them, to see what they can do. Hopefully we’re able to have an indoor season because I think indoor would really suit Josh’s strengths really well. ... Ahmed, he’s a 400 (meter) and 800 guy,” Vicker said. “... He gives us some options. ... Connor, once we get to outdoor, he’s been looking at the 10K. Indoor, we’d probably give an opportunity for him to work on the 5K and lower his PR again.”
Vicker mentioned working with Detrick on getting his mile time lower, saying that will be a potential race for him to run. Mather, according to Vicker, will also fill in where needed.
Even with the break starting, the group is anxious to get back to competing and get the season moving along.
“I think these guys are definitely looking forward to their break, but they’re already looking forward to what they can do in track season as well,” Vicker said.
UP NEXT – SWCC will next race at the NJCAA Half Marathon Tuesday in Fort Dodge.