On a hot Friday evening at Detweiller Park, the men’s and women’s cross-country teams hosted the Bradley Intercollegiate. The men cruised to a near perfect victory and the women were narrowly defeated to take second place.
This was the first meet of the season for Bradley’s top runners and served as a benchmark to show where the team’s fitness stands after a summer of training.
The men won in dominating fashion, totaling 16 points, missing a perfect cross country score of 15. The Braves finished in the top four positions and Alexander Bruno of Valparaiso to took fifth.
Redshirt junior Will Anderson won the race, as he crossed the line with redshirt senior Michael Ward and redshirt junior Luke Hoffert. Anderson, Ward and Hoffert all finished the eight-kilometer race in a pack at 24:59.
Head coach Darren Gauson said he was proud of the way his team performed. He hopes it is the first of many wins for the men this fall, pointing to senior Haren Dunderdale and junior Luke Hoffert as pivotal to the team.
“The men were pretty dominant and are a top 40 team nationally,” Gauson said. “We wanted to get out 4:40 for the first mile for Michael [Ward] and then get our group together. If Luke [Hoffert] and Will [Anderson] are doing well, and we get Haran [Dunderdale] a little bit closer to where he needs to be and Jake Hoffert healthy we are in good shape.”
Anderson, Ward and Hoffert led the entire race with Dunderdale making a late push to finish fourth. The men ran comfortably according to eventual champion Will Anderson.
“[Michael] Ward told me to take this one and finish the deal,” Anderson said. “At the future races, he and Jake Hoffert are going to get out hot and stay hot with the top group of guys. Today, we were completely controlled together and finished strong.”
Gauson said he understands it is still early in the season and wanted the team to run comfortably at the first home race and conserve energy for future meets.
“We did not want to go max out on the first one,” Gauson said. “We kept it a real hard and solid effort. We had a lot of people run fast. We were in control [on the men’s side].”
In the women’s three-mile race, redshirt junior Gabby Juarez won with a time of 17:02. Juarez was followed by Sam Lechowicz in fifth place, Ayah Aldadah in seventh, Abby Jockisch in eighth and Niamh Markham in ninth. Juarez ran alongside highly touted freshman Tyler Schwartz for much of the race. Schwartz ran unattached with a time of 17:18.
Gauson was admittedly irritated that the University of Northern Iowa, the runner-up to Bradley last year in the Missouri Valley Conference meet, edged out the women by two points, but saw the meet as a positive for the program.
“We always want to come out and win,” Gauson said. “When it really counts at regionals, we will be in top shape. We want to be a top-five [or] six team in the region. We will do a lot of strength endurance type stuff so we will be sharper.”
Juarez echoed her coach and knows that the women she trains with each day have some things to improve upon before the next meet.
“Today was a wake up call especially since the goal is to win conference but there is room for improvement,” Juarez said. “We went into the race knowing it would be a team effort and having them right there next to me showed that we can work together through it.”
Gauson believes that losing early in the season will help the women practice harder and become even more dedicated.
“I told them that losing [a meet] early will give them a little more vigor and determination at practice, which is a good thing,” Gauson said. “I think you learn a lot more from losing than winning meets all the time. They probably learned more today than our men did.”
The Braves will be back in action when they head to Madison, Wisconsin to compete in the 10th annual Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational on Sept. 28. The women will run a 6K at 12:20 p.m. followed by the men’s 8K at 1 p.m. This meet serves as an opportunity for Bradley to get a look at the course where the NCAA national meet will be held.