Bradley’s cross country teams found success in their first home race of 2021at the 34th annual Bradley Intercollegiate on a warm evening at Detweiller Park last Friday. Both the men’s and women’s teams had a strong showing in the first of Bradley’s two home races.
On the men’s side, junior George Watson’s Bradley debut resulted in a first-place finish (24:25.9), netting him the individual title and a course record. As a team, the men easily swept the field and finished first as well. Watson’s performance earned him the Missouri Valley Conference Cross Country Athlete of the Week honors.
“We just wanted to see where we were to start the season, and not much else was said to be honest,” Watson said of the team’s pre-race mentality. “We decided to run as a team, go out and enjoy it and trust in the training because training has been going really well. It was nice to be back racing. We got to the last mile and I still had some energy, so I went for [the win]. It was a lot of fun.”
The next six runners who finished behind Watson in the eight-kilometer race were also Braves. Junior Alec Danner (24:27.7) took second place, followed by freshman Michael Rebello (24:31.2) in third. Freshman Rodrigo Alvarez Gonzalez (25:00.4), junior Eddie Narbett (25:10.9), senior Drew Wenger (25:16.3) and freshman Noah Costa (25:26.9) occupied spots four through seven.
“George obviously was very good, and our men overall were excellent even though it was really a hot day and evening,” head coach Darren Gauson said. “I think it was 88 degrees when the gun went at 6 o’clock. That’s the best opener we’ve ever had, better than in 2018 when we finished 24th in the nation, so I like where the men’s group is at.”
On the women’s side, Wisconsin placed the first 12 runners en route to a first-place team finish in the three-mile race. Bradley, however, snagged second after freshman Tiana LoStracco (17:37.4), junior Lily Strauss (17:57.9), freshman Olivia Hobbs (18:20.3) and junior Amelia Lesher (18:41.7) all finished within the top 20.
“I thought Tiana did a really excellent job, and to get second to a nationally-ranked team in Wisconsin was really good,” Gauson said. “Our men’s team has 25 guys, so it’s a really deep roster and we could afford to just kind of race everybody. We are trying to win the conference meet this year, so we’ve just got to be careful when we’ve only got 13 girls.”
The Braves will look to carry the momentum into their next race, which will be the Gans Creek Classic hosted by the University of Missouri on Oct. 1. According to Gauson, it will be a tough task, as Bradley will go up against schools such as Texas A&M, Missouri, Drake, Kansas and Kansas State.
“It will be the first time we’ll get all the [varsity] women out there and competing, so we’ve just got to see where our women’s team is against some top competition,” Gauson said. “We’ve got a debut for [freshman] Nicola Jansen, so that will be really exciting.
“If I’m being totally honest, I think our men’s team has a great chance to finish top three … We just shot up into the top 10 in the regional rankings based off this past weekend, and it will be a really exciting opportunity for them to compete against a little bit more competition than what we had at Detweiller Park.”