By: KAYLA SMITH
Two meets into its inaugural season, the men’s cross country team continues to find its feet while low membership within the women’s team has kept the group from competing.
The men’s first meet kicked off at the USF Twilight Invitational on Sept. 4, followed recently by the Indiana Intercollegiate on Sept. 18, hosted by Indiana State University.
The Titans finished 17th out of 19 teams, with an average top five times at a total of 31:35. Receiving the team’s best time was junior Jesus Rojas at 30:03. Rojas placed in the top 20 runners out of more than 100 in competition.
“He is awesome. He definitely pushed it and he’s been running all his life,” said senior Satori Stahl of his teammate.
With limited runners, a total of 10, the men competed in the Indiana Intercollegiate through team scoring versus open scoring due to such a small roster. The course was described by Stahl as a bit challenging, continuing to fluctuate with the ups and downs of the hills that stretched the span of the course, which introduced a physical aspect.
“The difference between high school cross country and college cross country, is that high school cross country is a 5k which is 3.1 miles and in college, for men’s, it’s an 8k so it’s definitely a lot different,” Stahl said.
Participating in the invitational was a big change for the Titans as there were several Division I, Division II and Division III schools competing alongside IU South Bend.
“IU Bloomington was there. Butler was there. So that was a good experience, but we kind of expected runners who have full-ride scholarships, compared to us as a first-year program,” said Stahl. “As a team, I can tell we’ve grown a lot.”
The team maintains a consistent practice schedule. Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams are coached by head coach Rob Carrasco and assistant coach Tony Carrasco.
“The coach is expecting us to have character,” Stahl said.
The teams’ next meet will be at the E. DeWitt Baker Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 3 at Huntington University. The search for more runners is always open, as the women’s team is currently inactive and have not competed in any meets thus far.
The women’s team consists of a mere seven runners. The women have been practicing, as well as attending the competitions, but are active in their search for more interested runners.
While some runners are members of the team for the pure enjoyment of running, others have a lifelong background in competitive running.
“The team is half and half. There is a group that can compete and has been brought up running their whole life and then there is a half like myself, who are trying to stay in shape and enjoy running, but have not had any competitive running experience,” Stahl said.
As a walk-on athlete, Stahl discussed the future of the program and his curiosity to see how the program continues to make positive strides in Titan athletics.
“All three sports are a positive addition for the campus,” Stahl said. “We’ve done a good job at bringing it to people’s attention and I hope that next year it just gets bigger. I’m curious to see if next year we have a lot more people that want to walk on versus just scholarship athletes.”