UWO cross country teams finish season on high note

Michael Johrendt

The UW Oshkosh men’s and women’s cross country finished their seasons on Nov. 21 at the NCAA Division III Championship races in Winneconne. For the women, they used their automatic bid, due to finishing second in the DIII Midwest Regional, to catapult them into the final race. Their 15th-place finish was the highest since 2009. Everything considered, senior Leah Rendflesh said this season was a real success. “Starting out this season, I never would’ve imaged we could’ve done the things we accomplished this season,” Rendflesh said. “The team chemistry was great this year and we were way more positive than previous years. Everyone looked forward to go to practice and made each other better.” The women ran to their 21st top-15th place finish in the history of the program and senior Kylee Verhasselt, senior Danica Harrison and sophomore Hannah Kuenzi were the top finishers. By taking home 70th, 103rd and 141st places, the Titans were able to score 467 points. Coach Eamon McKenna said the women, while facing adversity, pushed through and achieved more than was thought possible. “It is not easy to change coaches during the season, and the women responded with great maturity and purpose,” McKenna said. “They went from a team that was ranked 3rd in the conference and 7th in the region, to a team that won conference for the first time since 2000 and placed 2nd in the region to qualify for Nationals” This season, the women had five top-5 finishes, with three first places. There were two first-place individual finishes this season, as Hannah Kuenzi took top honors at the Ripon College Invitational and sophomore Isabella Tremonti took home gold at the UW Oshkosh Open. This was the first year McKenna led both the men’s and women’s team, due to budget cuts they were forced to cut down to one coach. The men earned an at-large bid for the championship, and they made the most of it. By finishing 13th, the men secured their 23rd top-15 finish in program history. Senior Jordan Carpenter, winner of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Men’s Cross Country Runner of the Week in September as well as the WIAC Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year, led the Titans with his 13th-place finish. His performance during the season and at the Championship garnered him his first All-American award. Carpenter’s time of 24:38.70, coupled with 345 points, led to a 13th-place tally. His improvement over his four-year career is very evident: in 2012 he placed 264th, 108th in 2013 and 45th 2014. Coach McKenna said both the men’s and women’s commitment and dedication are evident. “As for the men, they went from having a coach who was solely focused on them, to having a coach that suddenly had two teams to work with,” McKenna said. “This was a big change for them, as well. They responded incredibly well, demonstrating great patience, focus and leadership throughout the year.” The Titans had five runners place in the top 150 out of 278. Junior Charlend Howard was second for Oshkosh, finishing in 50th place. Freshman Wal Khat took home 125th, senior Roberto Lara finished 136th, and junior Tyler Miletti was 141st. Junior Joe Zack, who placed 204th, said this season was a success on all levels. “This season will always be looked at as a success because we accomplished our baseline goal of making it to Nationals as a team,” Zack said. “Although we had some lofty goals on top of that, we had some hiccups throughout the season that made those higher goals a lot more difficult, such as injuries, and some illnesses.” Zack said by the end of the year, the team was able to pull through and finish well. “There were a lot of good individual performances throughout the season that progressed very nicely,” Zack said. “We ended the year with almost everybody having the best seasons of their lives, which is really a cool thing to be a part of on this team.”