By Kiyhanna Dade, Guest Writer
The APU cross country team is dedicated, determined and are looking to have another successful season.
In their season opener at the Lancer Invitational, the Cougars placed second in the women’s 4k race and fourth in the men’s 6k race.
Despite the strong start, members of the team acknowledged that they still have a lot of work to do.
“So far, this season is powerful because we are putting more into this season than I think we ever have before,” sophomore Elise Larson said. “Not just physically, but spiritually too. The result of what we have been putting in is just…powerful.”
With the power and experience of returning runners Larson and junior All-American Eileen Stressling, the women were able to compete in their second meet at the UC Riverside Invitational on Sept. 17, finishing 12 out of 20 teams. At the same meet, the men finished 18 out of 29 teams with juniors Cody Drisko and Jeremy Porter leading the way.
Based on the first two races, head coach Preston Grey agreed that this year’s returners are strong and enthusiastic with how they are leading the way for the rest of the team.
“We really want our returners to always take the step in front of the newcomers, whatever that might be,” Grey said. “We think our top returning guys are ready to take that step.”
Because there are only a few returners, the upperclassmen on the men’s team will have the opportunity to take on leadership roles as the season continues.
“I think that there’s a lot of hard work that our main group has put in this summer,” Porter said. “We’re ready to just race pretty well.”
On the women’s side, freshmen runners Isabelle Moran, Kristina Capello and Annie Ware finished top five in both the first and second meet. For the men’s team, Kurt Hake and Alex Nienaber contributed to a top five finish as well.
“We have some solid freshmen that have stepped in,” Grey said. “Annie Ware has been a big contributor right away. The freshmen have been doing a great job, especially with how young they are.”
Along with the high expectations and results for the season, the Cougars admit they have been facing a few of the struggles typical of teams at this point in the season.
“We have had a challenging season so far,” Stressling said. “[It’s] just the usual struggles of new teammates, getting to know everyone and figuring out everyone’s personalities. It’s a rough time in the season; everybody is just exhausted.”
With some big races coming up, the teams are preparing mentally and spiritually to do their very best and be better than last year. Both teams acknowledge that their mental toughness is what gets them through their hard-hitting practices.
“All of these races [are] pretty much we have done before,” junior Cody Drisko said. “We just have to think about it, envision it and know how good we are. Trust your training, and know that you can keep up with the top guys out there.”
Along with Drisko, Grey believes that with the talent these teams have, they can and will compete well.
“I think our biggest strength is just being solid every day,” Grey said. “Not getting too high or too low, just being solid and going out there every day, getting the work done and moving forward.”
On Oct. 1, the Cougars will head north for the Stanford Invitational. Coming off a less-than-their-best performance at last year’s meet, the teams are looking forward to a chance at redemption.