After the men finished first and the women second as a team in the Missouri Valley Conference cross-country Championship, both teams’ seasons ended in Stillwater, Oklahoma on Nov. 14, at the NCAA Midwest Regional Meet.
The men placed 11th with 310 points, and the women claimed 12th with a score of 335. Tulsa captured first place on the men’s side with a score of 37, while Illinois took the women’s title with a score of 108.
The men’s team was without redshirt-freshman Drew Wenger, who was injured in the conference championship race.
Similar to the strategy employed during the MVC Championship, the men sent all their runners to the front in the 10-kilometer race.
“We were very aggressive and wanted to compete with the top five, top six teams in the region,” head coach Darren Gauson said. “We were probably too aggressive and some of our guys fell back in the second half of the race.”
Redshirt-senior Jake Hoffert led the Braves, finishing at the 25th place with a time of 31:31.9. Hoffert was in 12th late in the race but suffered a foot injury in the last kilometer.
He had been dealing with some pain in his bottom heel area for a month. He was told after the race that it was plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissue that connects the heel to the toes.
“I was in a boot just about a week before conference,” Hoffert said. “Before that [the pain] was kind of there, but I was icing it and keeping it under control.”
Hoffert also took more time to rest and recover, running five to six days and taking one to two days to rest or do cross-training.
Before the race, Hoffert said he did not feel anything unusual and adrenaline helped him run through the pain.
“I had little pain before the race, but it wasn’t anything out of the norm,” Hoffert said. “It was something I had been used to running with for a couple of weeks now. Right around 8.5 and 9K it hit me and I started limping and tried to pull through the end of the race.”
Behind Jake Hoffert, redshirt-freshman Matthew Richtman finished 51st, followed by his twin brother redshirt-senior Luke Hoffert in 52nd. They both finished with times of 32:02.7 and 32:03.3, respectively.
To round out the Braves’ top five were senior Ben Potrykus, who finished 63rd with a time of 32:17.7, and junior Alec Hartman who crossed the line 125th after 33:24.6 on the course.
On the women’s side, a more conservative game plan was carried out well in the 6-kilometer race. Gauson did not seek to be as aggressive and hunt for the top positions but wanted his runners to feed off of each other at a steady pace throughout the race.
“We actually executed pretty well,” Gauson said. “Our plan with [our top three runners] was to be in the top-40 the whole time and we finished in the top-40.”
Sophomore Ayah Aldadah led the Braves with a 30th place finish in 21:26.5. She was followed by junior McKenzie Altmayer at the 33rd spot and sophomore Tyler Schwartz in 37th spot. They had times 21:31.2 and 21:41, respectively.
Rounding out the Braves’ top five were senior Abby Jockisch at the 110th position with a time of 22.43.9 and senior Gabby Juarez at 134th with a time of 23:03.
“I was proud of everybody,” said a satisfied Aldadah. “It was a hard course, only our second 6K of the season too, a very hilly course and I think we all tried our best.”
Aldadah said she also believes this team has learned a lot from having to run a very tough and hilly course in Oklahoma.
“I know for next cross country season [nationals] will be on that same course,” she said. “We’re going to have to do a lot more hill work because I don’t think we were prepared for that. The hills were tough.”
Talking about the future of the women’s team, Gauson was very excited and said great things are ahead.
“I think [they] will be really good next year,” he said. “We could really surprise some people, we run the way we ran last Friday with two girls in top-40, we’re a top four team in the region.”
The team is now looking toward the start of track season in January.