Loyola’s cross-country teams are heading to Bradley University in Peoria to compete in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Championship Oct. 27. In the MVC Pre-Championship Poll, the women’s team was selected to finish second and the men’s team tied for fifth.
Oct. 12, both the men’s and the women’s teams were at Bradley competing in the Bradley Pink Classic. The course was muddy, due to poor weather conditions, according to assistant coach Alan Peterson. He said he hopes the weather will be better at the MVC Championship.
“Hopefully it’s in a little better condition than what we left it,” Peterson said. “It was pretty muddy when we were there for the Bradley Classic. Hopefully, over the next few weeks they will be able to get it back to the caliber it needs to be at in order to really host a conference championship.”
Women’s Team Looks to Make History Again
Last season, the women’s team finished in third place out of 10 with 93 points — the highest place the team has finished since joining the MVC in 2013. Bradley finished in first place and University of Northern Iowa finished in second place with 30 and 56 points, respectively.
Bradley received all 10 first place votes in the 2018 pre-conference poll, according to the MVC website. The poll ranks second place to sixth place with in 30 points. Peterson said this year’s race is going to be even tighter than last year’s.
“This is one of those years in the [MVC] where probably 10 to 30 points is going to separate six teams or so,” Peterson said. “Every place is going to matter and we’re definitely excited about it. We’re in a good spot as far as where we are [with] the health of the runners.”
Redshirt senior Lindsey Brewis was one of 10 runners named 2017 All-MVC as one of the top 10 runners in the conference. The top 10 runners to finish are named All-Conference, while the runners that place 11th through 15th earn All-Conference Honorable Mention, according to the MVC website.
Unlike last year, the MVC Championship and NCAA Midwest Regional will be held in the same place. So Loyola will be running on Bradley’s course for their last three meets.
Since Brewis has run this course three times in her career, she said she was “bummed” she was going to have to run it again. Since the schedule release, she said she’s seen the bright side in running it for the fourth time.
“It’s a really nice course,” Brewis said. “It’s very fast. I’m actually excited to just run it and not be worried about when do I have to turn looking for mile markers, but letting myself go and run to the best of my ability.”
Brewis said she’s looking to become a back-to-back conference champion, something a Loyola runner hasn’t done since 1999, when Loyola was in the Horizon League.
If Brewis wins, she’d become the first Loyola runner to win back-to-back MVC Championships. She said this meet is important for her due to the confidence she has gained during her time on the team.
“When I was a freshman and a sophomore, I didn’t really believe in myself,” Brewis said. “I always put limits on myself. I was very constrained with my goal setting. To be able to win the title and hopefully do it back to back it means a lot to me to see that personal growth.”
Men’s Team Looks to Improve Upon Last Year’s Place
Last season, the men’s team finished fourth with 93 points, which was their highest place since their first season in the MVC. Bradley finished first, Indiana State University finished second and Illinois State University finished third.
Bradley earned eight first place vote while Loyola received one. The poll ranks the Ramblers below Indiana State, Illinois State, and Drake University. Assistant coach Mircea Bogdan said he hopes this season they can continue to move up the rankings.
“We’re really excited the time has come,” Bogdan said. “Championship season is here. The hope is always to place as high as possible. I’ve said in the beginning, if we fire on all cylinders, we could top-two [or] top-three easily.”
The men’s team had one runner qualify to be 2017 All-Conference, Alex Baker, and two runners qualify as All-Conference Honorable Mention, Peter Schaible and Kevin White. This year, Bogdan said he hopes the team can earn some All-Conference awards again.
“I think this is the year that every team has brought much more to the table,” Bogdan said. “It’s going to be an interesting one. Get two people in the top 10, maybe another guy in the top 15, another guy in the top 20, or two.”
Sophomore Kenny Wallace finished 49th with a time of 26:57 last year. In high school, Wallace played soccer, which meant he wasn’t training to run distance. He said toward the end of the season, he started to burn out from all the training, so he didn’t do as well as he had hoped at the MVC Championship. Now that he’s had a full season of cross-country, he said this year is going to be different.
“I want to do well as a sophomore in the field,” Wallace said. “I would love to be our third guy behind Derek [Rink] and [White]. We have a couple good [first-years] who have really performed well too, so if that means I’m fourth or fifth, I’m all right with that too.”
Wallace said the key to the team doing well at this meet is keeping their times low and their pack tight.
“[Improving times is] what it’s going to take for us to place as high — as a team — as we want … for multiple guys to be in the 25:30 to 23:45 range,” Wallace said.
The women and men’s teams are schedule to race in the MVC Championship in Peoria Oct. 26.