Cross country looks at MAC Championships to prove itself


The women's cross country team starts the 32nd Annual Jeff Drenth Memorial Run on Sept. 1 at Pleasant Hills Golf Club.

After a transition season, the Central Michigan cross country team prepares for the Mid-American Conference Championships on Saturday, Oct. 28.

Players and coaches describe the 2017-18 season as transitional because included changes in leadership and coaching from 2016-17.

Both the men’s and women’s teams will bring nine runners each to the meet in Miami, Ohio. Each team was forced to cut one runner from the 10-athlete squads they took to Pre-Nationals two weeks ago.

At last year’s MAC Championships, the women finished in fourth place, while the men placed seventh.

The men’s 8K will begin at 11 a.m. and the women’s 6K starts at noon.

Men’s team

With a young team comprising mostly freshmen and sophomores, men’s coach Matt Kaczor knows this season is a stepping stone for years to come.

“We have a lot of younger talent — more than we’ve probably had in years,” Kaczor said. “We’ve been ranked regionally for a few weeks now, so I think MACs will be a time to show we’re legit.”

Freshman Logan Kleam has been the men’s top runner. His top time this season came at Pre-Nationals, leading the Chippewas with a time of 24:33.5.

“All I can do for myself is push to get my best time yet,” Kleam said, “but I’ve also got to push my teammates to do their best over these next few days.”

Kaczor has given high praise to Kleam, but recognizes CMU’s top runner is irrelevant if their back runners can’t close the gap between the two.

“We’ve got some depth this season,” Kaczor said. “But a lot of these kids have never run a championship meet before. We all just have to keep focused as Saturday approaches.”

Two others have ran under 25 minutes this season — sophomores Mark Beckmann and Luke Anderson.

Beckmann’s finish at Pre-Nationals (24:59.2) marked the best of his career – better than his 34th place finish at the 2016 MAC Championships (25:54.7).

Anderson’s top time this season (24:58.5) was also the best of his career, half a minute faster than his 23rd place finish at last year’s MAC (25:33.7).

Women’s team

The women’s team thrived this season while avoiding transitions with a new coach and top runner.

Director of CMU track and field/cross country Jenny Sweiton was hired late this summer, but has already established great rapport with the team.

Senior Taylor Aguillon has led the team in most meets. Her top 6K time this season was at Pre-Nationals (21:03.8). It was also the best time for any female runner this season.

Right on her heels this season has been junior veteran Megan O’Neil with a top time of 21:20.8.

O’Neil was described by Sweiton as a “blessing” for her leadership abilities. She took ninth in last season’s MAC Championships, running a career-best 21:19.9.