Story by: Sutton Jacobs, '18
Akron, Ohio – The Men's and Women's Cross Country teams travelled north get their best glimpse of the NCAC competition to date at the 64th annual All-Ohio Intercollegiate Championship. Faring from across all divisions of the NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA, 38 women's teams and 39 men's teams gathered in Akron from throughout the state of Ohio for the meet. Race conditions remained perfect during a consistently sunny day with temperatures in the mid-60s, which resulted in strong Tiger times across the finish line.
"We raced extremely hard on a very tough course," Coach Craig Penney said. "We continue to grow and develop as a team and competitive drive."
The women found themselves with a rocky finish overall, placing 32nd overall and 16th of 17 among Division III institutions. Many rookies however found improvement since Ohio Wesleyan two weeks ago. The varsity squad was led by freshman Elizabeth Canright, crossing the line at 24:16.8, over a minute and a half faster than her collegiate debut on the six-kilometer course. Sophomore Erika Bournival saw almost two minutes of improvement, coming through the tape at 25:12.4. The veteran was not fazed by the change in course, timing 30 seconds faster than her first appearance in the intercollegiate championship a year ago.
"Canright continues to show a very competitive drive and raced well," said Penney. "[She] ran a personal best. Bournival ran hard [too]."
Freshmen Annalee Lynn, Morgan Ely and Sydney Shannon worked together for Wittenberg positions three, four and five to round out the top scorers. The Tiger trio crossed the line 26:40.7, 26:44.5 and 26:46.8 respectively in their first crack at All-Ohio. Lynn and Ely, who worked together to power through the Ohio Wesleyan meet two weeks ago, both improved their marks by roughly two minutes. Shannon took advantage of her recent promotion to varsity and cut three and a half minutes from her last six-kilometer outing.
The same proved true for the men as it did for the women, who were also unable to place very high. Charles Rodeheffer made an even greater comeback this week to lead the Tigers to 30th place overall, 14th of 18 among Division III institutions. The senior was the 25th Division III runner to come through the finishing chute at 26:52.0, a minute and a half faster than last week and 10 seconds quicker than he was this time a year ago. Freshman Ryan Zimmerman led the Tiger rookies, clocking 27:22.9 in his 3:20 improvement since Ohio Wesleyan.
"Our first years did well and stepped up and accepted the challenge," Penney said. "Pleased with Zimmerman and Andrew Reese. Very strong race."
Continuing to reap the benefits of the fast-paced course and highly-competitive field, senior Jersson Pachar powered his way through the gates three minutes faster than expected, finishing in 27:48.0. Reese finds himself in the Tiger top-five for the first time in his collegiate career after the freshman improves by almost five minutes with his 28:05.9 finish. Crossing the line at 28:47.9, sophomore Miles Caine rounds out the 1:55.9-gap in his first eight-kilometer race of the season after falling out of the race two weeks ago.
"All of the kids gave a strong effort," Penney said. "It's hard to balance everyone at one time, but we keep getting in the lab and working on developing a plan that puts the group in the best position to race well. It's balance."
Wittenberg featured no runners in the Women's Open 6k race, while boasting three runners for the Men's Open 8k.
"These next four weeks are critical to our development and success at the conference meet," Penney said. "We have the talent and work ethic. It all needs to come together in these next weeks."
Akron made its debut as the venue of choice during the 2018 race. Since 2010, it was held at nearby Elvin R. King Cross Country Course on the campus of Cedarville University. Previous to that, the state intercollegiate meet was held at Ohio Wesleyan.
Both programs will continue their 2018 campaigns back in Springfield for Homecoming Weekend, hosting alumni for a special-recognition run. The following week, varsity and junior varsity programs will split going into Fall Break.