Record breakers thrive in cross-country

By Marissa Masano

The Youngstown State University men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the Texas A&M Arturo Barrios Invitational at the WATTS Cross Country Course in College Station, Texas on Oct. 13. 

The men’s squad ran the 8K with 15 athletes. All of the runners that competed in the Slippery Rock Invitational returned for the ‘Guins.

Heading into the invitational, the men ranked 12th in the Great Lakes Region and competed against other regionally-ranked teams.

The lady ‘Guins competed in the 6K with eight athletes. Graduate student Morgan Cole returned for the Penguins after being absent from the Slippery Rock Invitational. 

Freshman Grace Rhoades returned after placing 11th out of 150 runners in the Slippery Rock Invitational. The last time out, the freshman finished with a personal-best 6K time of 23:22  and was named the women’s runner and freshman runner of the week. 

The men’s side took 6th place, averaging an 8K time of 24:04. The team accumulated 244 total points but Tulane University won the invitational with 103 points. 

Five Penguins finished in the top 90, including senior Hunter Christopher, whose time of 23:17.5 broke his previous school record. He finished sixth out of 365 runners to lead the Penguins across the finish line.

Senior Ryan Meadows was next to cross the line beating the previous 8K school record, clocking in at 23:43.3 to finish 17th.  

Two redshirt freshmen were next to finish for the Penguins. Owen Brady placed 58th with a time of 24:19.0, and Blaze Fichter crossed the line at 24:29.8 to finish 74th. 

After being named freshman runner of the week in his Penguin debut and becoming a top finisher for the men’s side, Brady said being a redshirt has made a difference for his collegiate experience.

“Not having the pressure of racing definitely helped me transition from being in high school to college and it also helped me reach a whole new level of fitness,” Brady said. 

The last runner to score for the Penguins was senior Tyler Coon who ran a time of 24:33.9 to finish 90th. 

In the history of YSU’s cross country program, only nine Penguins finished under 25 minutes in the 8K. The program matched that statistic as Christopher, Meadows, Brady, Fichter, Coon, seniors Thomas Caputo, Luke Baun and Tyler Clark and redshirt freshman Sage Vavro all ran under 25 minutes at the invitational. 

The ‘Guins finished 29th out of 41 teams, averaging a time of 22:14.26. Utah Valley University finished first with an average time of 20:10.60.

Cole finished first for the women’s side, finishing 54th out of 385 runners. Her 6K time of 20:41 tied the record set by Penguin alum Samantha Hamilton in 2013. 

Senior Alyssa Deeds placed 212th as the ‘Guins second finisher. Her time of 22:16.0 ties for the eighth-fastest time in school history. 

Rhoades finished 268th clocking in at 22:47.3, and senior Hannah Wagner wasn’t far behind with a time of 22:49.0 for 271st place. Junior Alayna Cuevas closed out the ‘Guins scoring effort finishing 284th at 22:58.2.

Youngstown State’s Christopher, Cole and Brady all earned honors from their performances at the Texas A&M Arturo Barrios Invitational. 

Christopher was named the men’s runner of the week for the second time this season. His sixth place finish out of a Power 5 national field of 365 runners was highlighted by the Horizon League. 

For the third time this season Cole was named the women’s runner of the week. The graduate student improved her previous-best 6K time of 21:11 by 30 seconds, running under-21 minutes for the first time in her career. 

Brady was named the men’s freshman of the week for the second time this season. The Horizon League highlighted the redshirt freshman’s fourth-fastest 8K time in YSU cross country history. 

For assistant coach Eric Rupe he knows the stakes are higher at the upcoming Horizon League Championships, but the team will be taking the same approach they have had all year. 

“We are going to go out there and we are going to run our race that set us up best for success for each individual athlete on the team. Not too worried about what other teams are doing, but just kind of focusing on what we can do to run our fastest races at the conference championship”, Rupe said. 

The YSU cross country program will now set its focus on the Horizon League Championships on Oct. 28 in Fairborn, Ohio. The men will compete in the 8K, followed by the women’s 6K.  

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