Since becoming part of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in 2013, the women’s cross country team hasn’t finished in the top three at the conference championships. This may change when they race at Missouri State University Oct. 28 in Springfield, Missouri.
Led by redshirt junior Lindsey Brewis, the women are coming off a fourth place finish at the Bradley Invitational Oct. 13, narrowly defeated by third-place winner Bradley University.
“[Bradley] only beat us by eight points at the Bradley Invite last Friday,” Brewis said. “One of their coaches mentioned to [coach] Alan [Peterson], ‘You really gave us a scare.’ We have them on their toes and are ready to beat them.”
Brewis, who was recently named MVC Female Cross Country Athlete of the Week for the second time this season, is ready for the challenge and said she isn’t going to let anybody stop her.
“I think there are two [tough competitors], Hannah Truniger from [University of Northern Iowa (UNI)] and Jessica Allen from Missouri State,” Brewis said. “Hannah is a sophomore, [and] she is a stand-out individual. She has done phenomenal things in the 5K and the 10K in track. She will definitely be up there and a good challenge. Jessica Allen is my age, but she got really, really good the past year, but I’m not ready to let her beat me.”
Peterson said he believes the two toughest teams to beat are University of Northern Iowa and Bradley — but it’s anybody’s race to win.
“I am very confident that if we bring our A-game and we are ready to go, we are definitely going to be in the hunt to win the conference title,” Peterson said. “I don’t think we have ever won an MVC title. We have come in fourth a few times … hopefully we can take the past successes that Loyola had in the Horizon League and bring them to the MVC.”
Also looking to make a name for herself is first-year Mimi Reimers, who is a top contender for the MVC Freshman of the Year award, according to Peterson.
“I am a very competitive person, so it helps me to know the people who I am up against,” Reimers said. “[Brewis] and Emma [Hatch] have specifically been really good at telling me about the competition and who to look out for. I kind of know some freshmen who are contending for the top freshman spot. I am just going to try to beat them.”
The men’s team is also looking to contest for a top-three finish, aiming for second place behind reigning MVC champion, Bradley. Bradley was selected to finish in first place in the men’s and women’s MVC preseason polls. Like the women’s team, Loyola men’s cross country assistant coach Mircea Bogdan said he believes the other conference teams are going to be running at full force.
“The realistic goal is to challenge for the second position and it will be a fight between Indiana State, Illinois State and it looks like Drake has got their say in it,” Bogdan said. “It seems likes it is going to be a fighting four for the second position.”
Ready to take on his toughest opponent, junior Kyle Mattes from Illinois State University (ISU), redshirt senior Alex Baker said he believes he’s in the right place to pull out a win in his final conference cross country race.
“I started off [this season] at ISU with 25:02. I started off better than what I did in the conference meet [last year],” Baker said. “At Notre Dame and Bradley, I pretty much ran the same race at those two. I started off better from where I ended last year. It’s a really good indication that I am moving in the right direction and it really makes me excited for what I can do at the meet.”
Missouri State hasn’t hosted a MVC meet since 2008, which means most of, if not all, the runners will be new to the course. Not knowing what to expect, Baker said the runners have to mentally prepare for the race as best at they can because they won’t get to see the course in person until the day before the race.
“I actually haven’t heard that much about [the course],” Baker said. “Having never run it before, I don’t know exactly what to expect. It will be really important to figure that out before I go in. Just to kind of get a sense of what it is like terrain wise, if it’s longer in the sense that it is one big loop or if it is going to be a lot of mini loops. Also, just knowing essential [kilometer] or mile spots where I am going to have to pick it up or just knowing where I am in the race. I feel like preparation for that course is going to be important.”
Rain is in the forecast Oct. 27, which would make the course muddy — a factor runners must consider. It also means the runners would be wearing shoes with longer spikes and pacing themselves differently, which could make their times slower than normal. Although these unexpected factors can change the nature of the course, as long as the athletes stick to their individual game plans, they’ll be able to finish in the best place possible, according to Bogdan.
“Every runner is going to have a particular game plan in terms of where in the race they should be — in the beginning of the race, in the middle of the race and towards the end,” Bogdan said. “Everybody is going to have a strategy to move according to where they should finish.”
The men’s and women’s cross country teams are scheduled to race at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri Oct. 28.