ACU Cross Country finished a challenging six-meet fall season this past Friday with a strong performance at the Southland Conference Championships in Lake Charles, La.
The first Div. I conference meet in ACU history, the Southland Championships proved that the ‘Cats have tremendous potential. Senior Chloe Susset finished fifth out of 102 runners in the women’s 6K with a season-best time of 21:29.4, marking her fourth top-six appearance in a conference meet since 2009. She was followed by freshman standout Diana GarcÃa MuÃ±oz, who placed ninteenth overall with a time of 22:27.2. Freshmen Landa Dowdy, Michaela Hackett, and Kimberly Lamadrid also competed impressively, finishing in the Wildcats’ top five runners in their first college conference meet.
In the men’s 8K, junior Daniel Block, a transfer from the University of Saskatchewan, was the first ACU team member to cross the finish line, with a season-best of 27:06.9. Block was followed closely by senior Erik Forrister, a regular-season leader on the men’s team who came in at 27:19.5. Sophomore Chad Caton, senior Gary Duncan and freshman Reid Rivers also placed among ACU’s 8K runners.
ACU finished seventh in the women’s 6K and tenth in the men’s 8K in the 14-team meet, with Lamar University taking first place in both categories.
Led all season by Susset, the women’s cross country team has turned in some notable performances, including two second place finishes at the McMurry/Bill Libby Invitational on Sept. 7 and the Incarnate Word Cardinal Invitational in San Antonio on Oct. 12. The ‘Cats also took third place at the Texas Tech Red Raider Open in Lubbock on Sept. 13.
Susset ended her college cross country career with a fantastic fall season, earning two Southland Conference Runner of the Week honors. She took the women’s 5K title at the McMurry/Libby Invitational, then repeated her performance a week later at the Red Raider Open when she came within five seconds of earning her second title in as many weeks, finishing in a close second place. A month later, she came in first at the UIW Invitational.
The men’s team was more inconsistent than the women’s team, but was still able to prove it could hold its own in Div. I with fourth place finishes the McMurry/Libby Invitational and the UIW Invitational. The ‘Cats also had some great leadership in seniors Gary Duncan, a top performer throughout the season, and Erik Forrister, a former Lone Star Conference Men’s Academic Runner of the Year.
“This year, I looked forward to every meet and every practice because I couldn’t wait to get better and see the team get faster and improve together,” Forrister said. “We are competitive. We are striding towards becoming a dynasty in Div. I as we were in Div. II.”
It’s been a building year to be sure, with highs and lows as expected of such a young team. Despite the obstacle of developing a close-knit, competitive team with 15 freshmen and an entirely new coaching staff in the highest division of college athletics, the Wildcats have shown that the ACU cross country dynasty is not over.