The Wildcats’ cross country season began at home this past Saturday, winning individual and team titles.
The Wildcats faced stiff competition again this year at the Naimadu Classic, racing against Texas Tech, McMurry University, Western Texas University and Ranger College. The Red Raiders took the team win last year.
The events starting the year off for the Wildcats were the men’s Alfred Rugema collegiate 6K, followed by the Casi Florida 4K for the women.
Sophomore and returning letter winner Kevin Kipkosgei took the title for consecutive years after missing all but one meet earlier this year.
Freshman Denis Lagat had a good showing, following that up with a second place finish. The women followed the men with another impressive race of their own. With a 1-2 finish for the Wildcats in the 4K and another title win, Sophomore Briahna Gerlach won the race, followed by returning letter winner Senior Carnley Graham coming in second. Meanwhile, freshman Grace White finished third.
Coach Jarvis Jelen enjoys the youth and is looking forward to an exciting year. Looking forward, he says the adjustment period for such a young team will be critical in how they see continued success.
“The adjustment period for a lot of the freshmen, especially the men will be key,” Jelen said. “Going from highschool races, which are 5K for men and 3-4K for the women, to collegiate distances of 6-10K will be interesting.”
Coach Jelen has abundant confidence in the group, expecting great things to come for years to come. With a young core, the main point of focus moving forward will be staying healthy and strengthening the mental side of the races.
“As the season progresses, seeing the youth adjust to the longer distances mentally will be exciting to see,” Jelen said. “Watching how they mature and strengthen that side of the sport will be fun to watch this season and seasons to come.”
The Wildcats will head to Lubbock at the end of September to participate in the Texas Tech Open, followed by trips to the University of Arkansas, Texas A&M, and McMurry in October. The Southland Championship and NCAA races will begin in November.