Written by: Sutton Jacobs '18
Shelbyville, Ind. – The Men's and Women's Cross Country teams concluded their 2018 campaign at the Great Lakes Regional, placing 32nd and 22nd respectively.
The women's 6k featured a field of 33 teams from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Wittenberg showed well on a course of 240 runners.
"With the strength of the conference, we represented ourselves well," Craig Penney, head coach for the Tigers, said. "I feel good about it because we showed solid improvement."
Alexis Gray found herself atop the Wittenberg scorers with the best finish between the two squads for the second time this season. The junior placed 64th overall at 23:32.2 when crossing the line. Closing in, Elizabeth Canright ended her rookie season in the second position for the Tigers as the 101st runner overall to cross the finish line. The freshman came through at 24:10.1.
"I think this regional meet was great to experience," Gray said. "We have a very young group and they all stepped up today and most of us ran season bests."
Freshman Lauren Welker once again came through the line in the three-spot on the women's squad. Her 24:31.8 finish proved for a personal best, chipping off over one and a half minutes from her debut earlier this fall. Next into the finishing chute was rookie number-three, Kate Slyh. The freshman ran a personal best of 24:59.7. Erika Bournival closed out the Wittenberg gap at 25:27.7.
"Regionals is not an easy race but next year I believe this group can step up and do better," Gray said. "I love this group of ladies and I'm very excited that I will get to spend my last year with them."
The men found themselves challenged, suffering various injuries as the season came to a close. Featuring a 1:40 gap, the men finished 32 of 38 teams in a field of 265 runners.
"We were short-handed but many of our guys ran [personal bests] today and are ready to take the next step," Penney said. "The core group is coming back, and with the culture that currently exists in the men's group, they are sure to be solid in the coming track season and in the  season."
The freshmen controlled the five-mile grind for the Tigers, claiming four of the top five. Leading the way, Ryan Zimmerman ended his rookie campaign in 154th with a time of 27:35.7, passing 17 opposing runners after the second mile through the end of the race. The power duo would not be complete without senior Jersson Pachar, who followed close on the heels of his teammate to finish at 27:40.3, his best time of his collegiate career in his final race.
"I'm only a sophomore, but I can tell that this young group is getting ready to do some really cool things," Miles Caine, sophomore, said. "If the men had been healthy then we would have placed much differently in the conference."
Cullen Sainey claimed number three for the Tigers, clocking a personal best of 28:06.2 at the end of his first-season with Wittenberg. Following the freshman was Andrew Reese, crossing the finish line 28:34.3. Clocking under 30 minutes for the second time this season, Jack Chambers closed out his freshman campaign with a 26:16.1-personal best.
"The culture has taken, is taking, its last couple of steps towards being able to produce a great team," Caine said, "If we keep doing what we're doing then it's going to be a really fantastic day to be a Wittenberg Tiger."