Cross country teams run to top 10 finishes

The men’s and women’s cross country teams continued to show signs of improvement Saturday at the 70th Annual Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla., as they prepare for the NCAA National Championship meet.Over a hilly course, freshman Festus Kigen and junior Matt Manly paced the men’s team to a sixth-place finish, while senior Calandra Stewart and freshman Carlene Mayfield guided the women’s team to third place.

“We’ve been getting better every week,” head coach Eric Heins said. “The women’s team has made a huge jump from UNT, and we need another big jump before the pre-nationals in two weeks.”

Due to the terrain, the race was determined more on strategy and tact, rather than raw speed, Mayfield said.

“There was one girl on the course who I passed four times,” Stewart said, “Everyone fought for their positions.”

Stewart continued her string of top-three finishes by taking second place in the field of 136 runners with a time of 17 minutes, 31 seconds.

Mayfield, who finished ninth with a time of 18:11, said Heins wanted her to notch a top-10 finish on the day.

“I’m lucky to get to practice with Calandra each day,” Mayfield said. “During the race, I thought, if I could still see her, I knew I was doing OK.”

As for the men, Heins said a sixth-place finish was a good sign for the Horned Frogs, who had their top-five all under 27 minutes for the 8K.

“We were shooting to be top five, but this is the highest placing finish (at the Jamboree) in a long while,” Heins said.

Kigen, who finished 25th out of 148 runners, finished with a time of 25:45, but he ran outside his means, Heins said.

Manly worked through the course and finished in 33rd place with a time of 26:13.

“Overall, I was hoping to be under 26 minutes, but the course is really up and down,” Manly said.

The rolling terrain forced the runners to try and balance their efforts throughout the race as best as possible, Manly said.

On Sunday, the team returned to practice and logged a 16-mile field run, Manly said.

“With the kind of mileage we are doing, I’m interested where we’ll finish in regionals,” Manly said.

Mayfield also said the team will try to perform well at the NCAA Regional meet in order to get a chance in the NCAA National meet.

“We want a good enough standing to qualify for nationals,” Mayfield said. “It has been our goal all year to make it.