The Loyola cross-country teams finished up their seasons Nov. 9 at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships in Peoria. Both teams finished in 16th place, the highest place for the men’s team since joining the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in 2013.
The women’s team finished 16th out of 35 teams with 414 points, which was the same amount of points and same place as last year. Assistant coach Alan Peterson said although the team tied last year’s place, he thought the season went well.
“Overall I think it was a good season. It was a solid season,” Peterson said. “Definitely a step in the right direction to where we want to be. I mean getting second place in the MVC, finally getting into that top two was a pretty big deal for us, so that was really awesome.”
At regionals, redshirt senior Lindsey Brewis qualified for NCAA Championships by finishing seventh with a time 20:34.7. Brewis is only the second female in Loyola history to make it to the NCAA Championship race.
At nationals Nov. 16, Brewis finished 56th out of 255 runners with a time of 20:44.9, surpassing her goal of placing 75th by 19 places.
“I was only eight seconds away from All-American so that is kind of a good gauge for me going into the track season too,” Brewis said. “I am very pleased.”
Next season, the team will be without its top runner. Peterson said losing Brewis is going to be a big hit to the team, but he said the high amount of younger runners returning will help fill that hole.
“We have a really young team as far as [first-years] and sophomores go,” Peterson said. “We pretty much bring everyone back, so we are pretty excited to get those girls into the mix now that they have a little bit of experience plus, the girls that we are going to bring in too. Definitely excited about where we are going.”
One of the runners slated to come back next season is sophomore Mimi Reimers, who finished seventh at the MVC Championship. Her time of 17:33.01 was a season-best and just four seconds behind first-year teammate Claire Hengesbaugh.
“I knew I wanted that top-10 finish and having [Hengesbaugh] next to me for a lot of the race really helped to push me and we never really lost that front pack,” Reimers said. “That was really cool and I think that kind of helped me going into regionals.”
Their sixth and seventh place finishes, along with Brewis’ first-place finish, earned the Ramblers three First Team All-MVC honors for the first time in program history. Although the team finished in second — the highest since joining the MVC in 2013 — Peterson said he wants to work on their pack running during the offseason.
In cross-country, the goal is to earn the lowest score by running in a tighter pack they allow less people in between them. This would result in higher places and lower scores for the team.
“I know this year we were a little more spread out than what I would have liked to be,” Peterson said. “But again, I think that comes with experience and comes with more time racing, especially for the [first-years] who will be sophomores now.”
With Brewis stepping away from cross-country, she said she’s happy to have had the opportunity to be apart of the program and she’s comfortable with the hands she is leaving it in.
“I think they’re going to do a great job,” Berwis said. “They are already leading by example and Alan has done a great job too, just as a young coach with a young program. I think the potential is limitless.”
At regionals, the men’s team finished 16th out of 31 teams with 457 points, which was two points more than last year and a place higher. Assistant coach Mircea Bogdan said the regional meet was a better showing of what the team is capable of than the conference meet.
“Before conference, we had some sparks of good stuff, but … we felt like we were chasing our best race,” Bogdan said. “Conference came and it almost put us even more behind than we wanted. I told them I refused to believe that we were the numbers that we hit … I said our best race hasn’t happened.”
At the conference meet, the team placed eighth out of nine teams — the lowest place the team has earned since joining the MVC in 2013. Since 12 of the 18 runners were underclassman and none of the them seniors, this season was more about developing and learning, according to Bogdan.
“I was so happy particular[ly] for them for working and believing … accomplishing [top 20 place at regionals] with four [first-years] in the top six out of seven runners that we ran is pretty impressive,” Bogdan said. “The five people that scored [at regionals] we have another five people that didn’t even run that are just as good. We have about 10 people at the same level of fitness and talent. Next year, the [expectations] are huge.”
Like the women’s team, the men’s team is looking to improve their pack running, according to junior Riley Demeulenaere. He said returning the same team as last year will help.
“Our spread between our first and our fifth guy most of the season was 30 seconds,” Demeulenaere said. “I think that strength, that depth, we have never had that, at least in the time that I have been here. I have never seen that depth within our team. It’s going to be that much stronger when we run as a pack, we can motivate each other like we do in practice everyday.”
Now that the cross-country season is over, both teams will be preparing for the indoor and outdoor track seasons. Both teams are scheduled to compete at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) in the GVSU Holiday Open Dec. 7.