Tough conditions hurt cross country team

Freshman Tara Stuntz placed 43rd in the Southland Conference Championships. She was the fastest runner for the women's cross country team with a time of 23:12.4. Courtesy of Sports Information

The cross country team competed in the Southland Conference Championships last week at the Abilene Christian University course.

The men’s team finished the race in ninth place with 247 points, which was their best finish of the conference championships since 2012. The women’s team finished 10th with 297 points.

Cross country Head Coach Rocky Capello described the conditions under which the young team was tested.

“The conditions were horrendous,” said Capello. “They had 25-30 miles-per-hour wind. It made it really, really hard to run fast at times. We brought five girls. I thought they performed OK. The five of them were true freshmen. So, first time competing in the conference championships, I think they did pretty well. We had three girls who were under 23:30.”

Capello went on to describe how the men’s team performed.

“On the boy’s side, we had pretty high hopes going into the meet because we’ve had a really good season,” said Capello. “But again, we’re a young team on the boy’s side too, and the conditions, they really hurt us.”

Freshman Breanna Bernard recorded a 17 second personal best during the tournament finishing at 23:22.5. Freshman Tara Stuntz led the women’s team as she was placed 43rd with a time of 23:12.4 followed by freshman Sophie Daigle, who finished 47th clocking 23:17.1. 

Freshman Anthony Cordero led the men’s side placing 43rd with time of 26:5.7 while sophomore Grant O'Callaghan was 44th in the race.

Capello felt the team was anxious to start in the meet.

“They were nervous as they all get out,” said Capello. “Most of them are first or second year kids. So, nerves played a part in their performance. They went outside the race strategy. Once the gun went off, that kinda went out of the window and they just raced. They ran a race that we weren’t prepared for yet, given their youth and their age.”

Capello hopes the team will perform better as they start to mature.

“It sets us up really well going into next year,” said Capello. “They’ve all got three more years. Once we bring in a few more kids, I think it’s gonna help the team down the line. It wasn’t the best performance we could have had, but I think it was a good learning experience. We did a little bit better than last year in the conference meet. Going into track season, I think that they can hold their head up high.”

The cross country team have NCAA Regional Championships up next. Capello talked about how the team looks for the race.

“We’ve got the regionals in two weeks,” said Capello. “Our top runner Tara has been having some pretty bad shin issues. So we wanna let her heal up. So, we decided not to take the girl’s team so that we can get healthy for the track season. But the boy’s team, we’re gonna take five or six of them and give it a shot.”

Capello described how the regionals would benefit the team.

“I want them to see what it’s like to race with the best teams in the south because our goal is to be up there one day,” said Capello.

The NCAA Regional Championships will be held on Friday, Nov. 10 in College Station, TX.