Summer time is usually a time spent relaxing and tanning. The cross-country team did the ladder of those two but only because they were outside training on a daily basis.
Both the men and women’s teams took their three months off seriously. A majority of the team came back with completely transformed bodied and attitudes and it’s shown in their races throughout the season.
The women’s team has dominated a majority of its races, claiming first place wins in the first two meets of the season. They then did what most wouldn’t have assumed possible this time last year by beating Texas A&M and several Southland conference teams. ACU finished third behind the regionally ranked University of Texas and Missouri.
Most of the attention has fallen on junior and number one runner for the Wildcats, Alexandria Hackett. She has improved dramatically over the course of a year and continues to drop her time each week. Of course, even Hackett herself would give the credit to teammates and coaches.
The competition between the women’s team is the kind that allows them to push each other while also maintaining a close bond that every team needs to be successful. All eight women on the team have dropped their 5k times this year immensely. Even the two new freshmen, Aubrey Till and Carnley Graham, have stepped and shown that they can be valuable to the team finishing near the top three runners for the Wildcats each week.
Allie’s twin sister, Michaela Hackett, is probably one of her sister’s biggest fans but also the biggest factor in why these two have basically brought this team from the brink.
Last year, a majority of the team scoring fell on junior Diana Garcia-Munoz, who was the Wildcats number one runner. This year both Hackett’s and Munoz have been in the top part of their races allowing the women to climb the ladder and become a huge factor in the Southland.
With conference fast approaching, the women’s team is looking to be the first team on campus to claim a Southland conference championship this year. They could do it, considering all season they beat Southland rivals they’ve faced including Stephen F. Austin and Central Arkansas. With conference a few weeks away, the team is now focusing on having good workouts and remaining on the right track.
The men’s team has been seemingly thrown under the women’s shadow this season due their immediate success, but the men have had success of their own.
With no new members at the start of the season, the men were working with what they have which isn’t too bad. Senior Daniel Block is competing in his final season here at ACU and has continued to lead the Wildcats as their number one runner. Sophomore Ryan Cleary has continued to improve off of his impressive freshman season, dropping his time since the start of fall.
The men did acquire a new member a few weeks into this season by the name of Lincoln Jones. Jones has survived the grueling training and process it takes to compete at the Div. I level, but still has room to grow, which is exactly how the coaches like their athletes.
Senior Taylor Ochs can attest to the growing process. Ochs has been through several coaching changes, two stadiums and dozens of teammates but one thing that has remained is his determination for the sport. He has improved over the last year greatly and has seen his time drop this season. Though he prefers the middle distance, Ochs is versatile and can adjust to the distance.
Senior Sterlen Paul is another middle distance runner who can adjust to the distance and help the team in points. Paul has struggled with injuries throughout his time at ACU but seems to be healthy this season. Paul, along with his other teammates have been quietly and meticulously improving their personal best this season.
It’s been a year since the men and women’s team had to adjust to not having their head coach Drew Graham due to a freak accident that put him in a wheelchair, requiring him to move back to Colorado for treatment and therapy. Graham has been one of the biggest factors behind the team’s motivation. He will be visiting the team one last time this Friday before he heads back to his home country of England. The team’s motto this year is that they run for something bigger than themselves and its apparent that this has been a real factor for both teams this season.
Both teams have this week off as they prepare for a race in Little Rock, Arkansas next weekend. If you see a group of men and women running at crazy fast speeds before the sun is up, don’t be surprised. It’s just the ACU cross-country teams running for something many wouldn’t understand and to them, that’s totally okay.