The women’s cross country team continued their great season last weekend, taking first place at Pre-Nationals in Evansville, Ind.
The men’s team finished ninth on yet another difficult course, one described by Coach Jarrett Slaven as “muddy and slippery” due to a heavy down pour.
The Spartan women started the day ranked 13th nationally.
Coach Slaven wanted to prepare the women’s team for Nationals, which is held on the same course as Pre-Nationals.
He was confident it will help them for the near future when they return to Evansville.
“If you make Pre-Nationals and made the course, it gives you not a big edge, but a slight edge,” said Slaven. “If you run a course, mentally, you‘re better prepared.”
After finishing at the top, Slaven has high hopes for how successful the women’s team can be, while staying realistic that there is still work to be done.
“We’re probably going to be anywhere from 7th to 9th ranked,” Slaven said. “We know we got a lot of work cut out for us [but] our whole goal is to make top five in the nation.”
Slaven feels the team needs more hill training.
The track in Evansville has runners battle with hills, but in Florida, they are clearly hard to find.
The coach takes them to Dover, roughly 20 miles from campus in order to train on hills.
For the men’s side, Slaven attributes their season thus far to “some misfortunes” and the young age of the team.
He wants this year to be a great experience that will hopefully set them up for more success next year.
“[The men’s] team [is] very, very young. The bulk of them are freshman,” said Slaven. “We just want to bring them along so they do fairly well at conference.”
Chris Catanach, one of the few seniors on the men’s team, led them in running time at Pre-Nationals, placing 22nd overall. The coach highlighted Catanach as a team member who has stepped up.
“Chris Catanach has been improving,” said Slaven. “I’d like to see him top ten in the conference.”
For the women’s team sophomore Jess Butler has already stepped up.
Finishing third at Pre-Nationals and leading the team to victory, Butler was recognized for her accomplishment.
She was named the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) Female Runner of the Week.
“She definitely deserved that. She probably ran better than any girl in the conference this weekend,” Slaven commented on the star runner.
Butler was a stand out in high school, winning state competitions in the two mile run and placing second in the one mile.
Red-shirted last year due to a hip injury Butler, in terms of athletics, is a freshman. However she is not missing a beat this time around.
“She’s got talent, she’s got a lot of talent,” Coach Slaven said.
Next on the cross country teams’ schedule is October 10 in Kissimmee for the Disney Invite.
From there, they have the SSC Championships, the NCAA South Regional, and finally the NCAA Championships.
With these very important meets upcoming for the women’s team Slaven believes they control their own destiny.
“If no one gets injured, I’m pretty sure we’ll go to nationals.”
Daniel can be reached at email@example.com.