Freshmen trio lead women’s cross country in Oakland short course


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

Only 11 runners from both the Central Michigan and Oakland cross country teams took the course Friday night at the Oakland Dual Meet in Rochester, with top runners from both schools resting. 

This gave some of the younger, secondary runners a chance to evaluated, potentially giving them a chance to fill the back slots in the regular lineup. 

As CMU head coach Matt Kaczor and director Jenny Sweiton tested their depth, runners took the short course – 3k for the women and 4k for the men – ahead of Pre-Nationals next week.

Six Chippewas ran in the women’s race, with freshman Paula Merino (11:27) leading the group. Oakland’s Ashley Burr took first overall. 

Fellow CMU freshmen Morgan Merlino (12:09) and Julianna Brown (12:16) followed behind. Friday night was only the third-career race for the freshmen trio.

The only Central Michigan senior to race was Alec Omell (12:39), who took sixth – only five seconds behind Oakland’s fifth-place finisher. 

Omell ran in last season’s Mid-American Conference Championships and the Great Lakes Region Championships. He took 42nd in the 8k (27:02.5) and 120th in the 10k (33:00.4), respectively. 

Redshirt junior Alec Esparza (12:48) clocked in nine seconds short of Omell.

Both Esparza and Omell are candidates to fill the sixth and seventh runner slot in the regular lineup, according to Kaczor. 

Next up for the Chippewas is a return to Louisville on Saturday, Oct. 14. Both the men and women will bring their regular lineup for the Pre-Nationals, with the men taking off at 10 a.m. and the women at 10:45.

Saturday’s meet will be the final for CMU before the MAC Championships in Oxford, Ohio on Oct. 28.