Cross Country earns top-10 finish Saturday

Michael Johrendt

The UW Oshkosh men’s and women’s cross country squads kicked off their seasons in the Vic Godfrey Open on Sept. 9 at the Wayne Dannehl National Cross Country Course in Somers. The men recorded a seventh-place finish and the women took home eighth.

For the men, they faced off against 11 different teams, including Division I squads such as Marquette University and Depaul University. UWO was one of three Division III teams to run in the Godfrey Open on Saturday.

The Titans’ top finisher was junior Brian McKnight, who ran the 8,000-meter course in a 26:39 pace, only a minute and a half behind the first place runner from UW-Parkside. Oshkosh had 23 runners in the competition, with 12 of the 23 finishing in 95th place or better.

Head coach Eamon McKenna, who is entering his sixth year overseeing the men’s squad and his third year as the women’s head coach, said beginning the season is a tough task, especially when dealing with both youth and injuries.

“Both teams are quite young and inexperienced overall this year,” McKenna said. “The men’s team returns four runners who raced at regionals last year, but two of them are out with injuries [seniors Mitch Pauers and Trevor Damkot], so we have a lot of work to do and we’ll need some young guys to step up.”

Oshkosh was supported by sophomore Lucas Weber, freshman Michael Juarez, senior Daniel Massey and sophomore Cody Chadwick. Weber recorded a 30th-place tally at 26:43, Juarez took home 52nd place with a 27:14 pace, Massey finished 64th at 27:39 and Chadwick placed 67th with a time of 27:43.

McKenna said the team wanted to solidify itself in the first meet and use it to understand how to balance pain, performance and results.

“At the Godfrey Open, we basically were just looking to get used to the feeling of racing and the pain that accompanies it,” McKenna said. “It is always difficult to be ready to race early in the season, as a different sort of discomfort and challenge is presented compared to simply logging training miles.”

Other top finishers for the men were freshman Noah O’Neill in 71st place, junior Jacob Rost in 80th place and freshman Andrew George next in 81st. Junior Bennett Krueger, sophomore Jack Rindahl, sophomore Skyler Yunk and freshman Noah Bruehl rounded out the Titans who finished better than 100th, as Krueger took home 85th, Rindahl 86th, Yunk 94th and Bruehl finished in 95th place.

Weber echoed McKenna’s statement about pain and said it is important to figure out how to work through it early on.

“[The meet] was a rust-buster to get used to hurting again,” Weber said. “I know Eamon [McKenna] said that it was just a chance to hurt a little and get back into the swing of things.”

McKenna said even with the men’s team having to deal with injuries, it was overall a strong showing to begin the year.

“A few of our top runners for each gender used the race as more of a workout than an all-out effort,” McKenna said. “Brian McKnight and Lucas Weber had strong races for our men, and a number of our younger guys started the season with good efforts.”

On the women’s side, the Titans also ran against 11 other schools, with Marquette taking home top honors.

Top honors for UWO went to senior Cheyenne Moore, who took home ninth place out of 163 runners. Moore is coming off a 45th-place tally in last year’s NCAA Division III Championship.

Sophomore Ashton Keene and freshman Hannah Lohrenz were the next highest finishers for the women, at 49th and 66th, respectively. Keene said even with the multitude of competition they faced, the race was seen as an opportunity to open the season.

“Our main goal for the first meet was just to get back into the competitive racing mindset and practice ‘hurting’ again, as Coach McKenna says,” Keene said. “We knew there would be a diverse mix of competitors, including several D-I and D-II teams, so we were trying to see how many individuals each of us could beat when the race got tough.”

Senior Cambria Garvelink and freshman Elizabeth Reddeman were not far behind Keene and Lohrenz in the 5,000-meter event, as Garvelink placed 76th and Reddeman was two behind in 78th.

McKenna said the top three runners for the women all had solid races, and that type of consistency is needed for the whole year.

“Cheyenne Moore was our only award winner, as she moved from about 36th place up to 9th place over the last two miles of the race,” McKenna said. “Ashton Keene and Cammy Garvelink had nice season openers, as well.”

Other participants for UWO in the meet were freshman Reece Matheson, junior Hannah Thorn, freshmen Paige Schilling and Erica Liesen, sophomore Tayah Cunningham, senior Jessica Stamn and freshman Allie Chen. These runners took home 91st, 100th, 105th, 106th, 111th, 123rd and 126th, respectively.

McKenna said returners for the women’s team will be crucial, especially for setting the tone for the team’s expectations, to the squad’s success this year.

“We return three of our top seven from our Nationals team a year ago,” McKenna said. “Again, we will be rebuilding on both sides, with some young runners in position to get some meaningful opportunities this year. We’ll look to incorporate them early and the upper class returners we do have are expected to set a good example and develop positive routines for the team.”

Both squads will continue their respective seasons at the Tom Hoffman Invitational, which is hosted by UW-Whitewater, on Sept. 16.