By Marissa Masano
The Youngstown State University men’s and women’s cross country programs competed at the Horizon League Championships on Oct. 28 at Fairborn Community Park in Fairborn. The men competed in the 8K with 12 athletes, and the women competed in the 6K with 10 athletes.
The men took first place to achieve back-to-back conference titles. This marks the first time in history the Penguins have earned consecutive championships and is the fourth title in program history.
The Penguins had four top-10 finishes and averaged a time of 24:27. The team also had six runners finishing sub-25 minutes. Senior Hunter Christopher placed first, earning the first individual cross-country title of his career. Christopher had a time of 24:04.17.
For Assistant Coach Eric Rupe the magnitude of runners who can contribute to the scoring effort shows this Penguins team’s depth.
“The depth that we have on the team to have that many in scoring positions really shows we are in a good spot heading into post season meets. So having that many people that can contribute to the top 10 potentially allows us maybe have one of our guys not have a great day and then there’s another guy right behind him to kind of pick that guy up,” Rupe said.
Senior Ryan Meadows placed second behind Christopher. Meadows finished with a time of 24:13.65.
Junior Thomas Caputo took an eighth-place finish and was the third Penguin to cross the finish line. Caputo’s time of 24:35.30 was a personal best.
Following Caputo was redshirt freshman Sage Vavro, who placed ninth with a personal-best time of 24:36.22.
Redshirt freshman Blaze Fichter placed 11th and rounded out the Penguins’ scoring effort. Fichter finished with a time of 24:42.26.
The Penguins scored 31 points, finishing 16 points ahead of the runner-up, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
On the women’s side, they placed fifth, averaging 22:25. Six ‘Guins finished in the top 50, including the 2022 women’s HLXC champion, graduate student Morgan Cole.
Cole finished as the runner-up with a 6K time of 20:50.90. This was Cole’s fifth consecutive top-six finish at the Horizon League Championships.
Senior Alyssa Deeds finished 16th and was the next ‘Guin to cross the finish line. Deeds ran a personal record, clocking in at 21:57.27.
Senior Hannah Wagner finished next for the ‘Guins, placing 37th at 23:01.39.
Rounding out the scoring effort were freshman Grace Rhoades and junior Alayna Cuevas. Rhoades delivered a 39th-place finish with a time of 23:05.26 and Cuevas clocked in at 23:07.14 to place 42nd.
Rupe says, “The number one reason for school records and fast times is how hard they work and the culture that’s been established on the men’s and women’s team.”
Several Penguins won individual awards at the championships. Vavro, who ran a personal best at the championships, was awarded the Cross Country Men’s Freshman of the Year.
Christopher and Meadows were named to the Men’s All-League First Team, and Caputo, Vavro and Fichter were called to the Men’s All-League Second Team.
Cole was the lone lady ‘Guin to be named on the Women’s All-League First Team.
After the championships, the men’s cross-country program is now ranked 10th in the Great Lakes Regional Poll.
The team will travel to the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course in Madison, Wisconsin, compete at 1:30 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on Nov. 10.
The women will run the 6K, followed by the men’s 10K. The men finished 11th at the 2022 regional championships, tied for the best finish in program history.
To keep up with the Nov. 10 meet, visit ysusports.com.