Cross-country looks to progress after strong start
With not even one week of classes in the books, the Central Michigan cross-country team had already started the season off with a bang.
In last Friday’s season opener at the annual Jeff Drenth Memorial, the men’s team finished in first place while the women finished in second place.
In her varsity debut, senior Taylor Aguillon took second with 17:21.20. Sophomore Bransen Stimpfel finished first of the men’s group with a time of 15:04.20.
Four men finished in the top 10 and earned a team win. The women took second with three Chippewas in the top 10.
Men’s coach Matt Kaczor believes his team can overcome their preseason ranking and end the season better than last season’s finish of eighth.
“We sat out a lot (of runners) last year,” Kaczor said. “With this full team, we’ll see how we finish against the powerhouses.”
The “powerhouses” Kaczor mentioned are Eastern Michigan and Miami (Ohio). Since CMU’s run of three straight conference titles more than a decade ago, Eastern has taken every year besides 2009.
Kaczor said he was exceptionally proud of his top-5 finishers. Each one of them recorded personal best times.
“(Bransen) really represented well,” Kaczor said. “Friday was a personal best for him by almost a minute. With them all being freshmen and sophomores, this is definitely going to be a growing season.”
New women’s coach Jenny Swieton was equally thrilled with her top finishers. She hopes the 4 and 5 place finishers can close the gap with the top 3.
In Swieton’s CMU coaching debut, her main focus is progress.
“I want progress, not perfection,” Swieton said. “I’ve probably said that a million times. Not every meet or season will end up how we want it. All I care about is improvement.”
Swieton, a CMU alumnus, spent the previous 12 years coaching at Murray State, North Carolina and Dickinson. She said she is confident in her coaching ability, but in the end, it’s up to the runners to focus on progress.
After a strong season opener, the team hopes to carry that momentum to September 15, when they head to East Lansing for the MSU Spartan Invite.