The University of Indianapolis men’s and women’s cross country teams both finished in 18th place for the University of Indianapolis Greyhounds at the Greater Louisville Classic, a competition that included Division I schools. For the women’s 5k course, four of UIndy’s runners had lifetime personal bests. For the men’s 8k course, three of Greyhounds had lifetime personal bests. Individually, junior Briana Leonard led the women’s team finishing 16th place out of 48 teams consisting of 406 runners. Following Leonard was sophomore Mickayla Wenzel in 40th, junior Samantha Holmes in 88th, and sophomore Sarah Burch in 122nd. Freshman Alec Scheerer led the men’s team finishing in 55th place out of 40 teams consisting of 358 runners. Behind Scheerer was senior Brandon Smith in 60th, freshman Kyle Gross in 115th and sophomore Taylor Kleyn in 138th.
According Smith the team’s age makes them a unique group.
“The biggest thing on the guys’ side is that it is just a younger group,” Smith said. “A lot of new, differing experiences from every athlete coming in gives it a little bit, kind of a spice to the team. The overall pretty inexperience, but it’s good to have differing views and a lot of different talents coming in making a difference to the program.”
Smith said that since many of the top runner graduated last year, the freshmen on the team are able to start making an impact immediately, which is an uncommon occurrence in many Division II programs.
“It’s a really different experience coming in and not having the depth that we had, but it is a good opportunity for growth,” Smith said. “The talent we have had come in this year is probably the best recruiting class that UIndy has had for men. [For] women there are some talented young women who have come in as well… This year, my goal when I leave is to have that structure put in place. To make sure that generations of UIndy Greyhounds coming in after me can see that success grow.”
Smith said that as they prepare for the rest of the season, the team is focusing on moving forward as a whole instead of just focusing on individual runners.
“Running is a little bit different than most sports,” Smith said. “You could compare it to something along the lines of swimming, where you have only a few individual peak moments where your performance has to be optimal in order to succeed at that level. The way it works in cross country is nobody really looks where you place as a team throughout the season. The only thing that really matters at the end of the day is how you did at conference and how you did at regionals. So what the whole build up for is training for those two meets.”
First-year head coach Brad Robinson said that he is excited to see the progress the young team will make throughout the season.
“They are very young,” Robinson said. “The men only have two seniors total out of the 16 members of the team. The ladies, there’s not a single senior that is actually competing, so we have three juniors as upper classmen that are leading the team for the most part. Smaller numbers for the ladies as well, so they are a much more close knit group this year since there’s not as many of them around. It kind of forces them to take accountability, see who’s there, hold everyone accountable… For the men’s side, it has been graduating most of our varsity last year, a great experience for younger guys to step up and fill those roles. It’s been a bit of a maturing process.”
According to Robinson, the teams are very coachable and full of potential. He said that he doesn’t want to under or over sell the team, but that he is very excited to see their progress.
“Everything at this point is a building phase,” Robinson said. “Every race gets a little bigger and a little bigger until we get to conference and regionals and try to finish it out with a big bang.”
Junior Briana Leonard said that personally the season is going well for her. She has gone from being the team’s 7th runner last year to their 1st runner this year.
“Conference is the big one for all sports, so [I’m] looking forward to that,” Leonard said. “It’s going to be at a new place, Missouri S&T and I’ve never been there, so I’m looking forward to a new course. I have a chance to also be all conference, so [I’m] training for that and hopefully going to do that. It is a little nerve wracking because there is an expectation there, but I have confidence in my training.”
The next event for both the men’s and women’s teams will be the GLVC Championship in Rolla, Mo., on Oct. 22.