It was a slow start to the season for the Bradley cross-country team as they competed in the Hawkeye Invitational this past Friday. The men earned 163 points to finish eighth in the 6K race while the women accumulated 190 points to snag sixth in the 4K.
Head coach Darren Gauson said last week that he didn’t want to go full strength at Iowa City, and that was evident, as only 12 runners competed on Friday.
“We probably held out our top 14 athletes,” Gauson said. “We’re looking a lot more down the road at the MVC conference [championship], so we’re trying to peak at the right time. You always want to progress week by week.”
Despite the lack of top runners, Gauson was still happy with the performance and relished the opportunity to see some athletes compete for the first time.
“Sophia [McDonnell] ran great and I was really proud of how Ashley [Maguire] competed,” Gauson said. “I think Noah Costa’s progressing along cross-country [well]. Mickey [Vreeland] and some of the true freshman guys, it was their first time in a Bradley singlet, so that’s always cool.”
McDonnell, a junior, led the Braves with a sixth place finish in the 4K with a time of 14:12.8. Fresh off an All-MVC selection last season, she said working with Maguire led her to success on the course last Friday.
“We worked really well together,” McDonnell said of her sophomore teammate. “[We] just tried to focus on relaxing the first part of the race and really pushing the last half.”
Maguire was the second Brave to cross the finish line, finishing 12th with a time of 14:23.7. Sophomore Tiana LoStracco finished 40th overall with a mark of 14:58.8, senior Amelia Lesher ran in with a time of 15:38.8 and sophomore Olivia Harp notched a time of 16:09.2 to round out Bradley’s top five.
On the men’s side, the sophomore Costa led the way, finishing 20th with a 6K time of 19:15.3. He credits his coaches and his training for his improvement from last year to this year.
“Last year, I felt like I took races a bit conservatively,” Costa said. “This year, I want to be more aggressive … [and] compete for the win [and trust] what my coach tells me to do in the races. When I’m listening to him cheer me on, it helps me relax and it helps me push harder.”
Vreeland crossed the finish line next for Bradley, finishing 29th with a mark of 19:29.8. Sophomore Aidan Donahue grabbed 34th place to a tune of 19:36.4, freshman Brandon Kamp ran a 19:46.1 and sophomore Zach Albrecht rounded out five top-50 finishers for the Braves men with a time of 19:54.9.
“Our team is just, overall, really strong,” Gauson said. “I think this group will learn and get some experience before our home meet and then to Missouri. For our younger athletes, our developmental group, it was a good outing. No matter what group we put out there, we will always want to compete really well.”
Iowa will host the NCAA Midwest Regional on Nov. 12, so Gauson knew this trip would be useful no matter the result of the races.
“We took our whole team [to Iowa],” Gauson said. “The whole group got to see the venue and everything.”
The Braves will be the hosts of their next meet on Sept. 17 at Detweiller Park starting at 5:15 p.m.