Cross country teams prepare for Maple Leaf Invitational

Story by Megan Henry

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In preparation for their first meet, Baker University’s cross country teams returned to campus nearly a week early to begin practicing and get to know the new members of the team.

Although the Wildcats won’t compete until Aug. 31, senior Megan Rosa already sees the potential in the team for the upcoming season.

“We have a really great group of ladies this year. We returned some really strong girls and we also recruited six stellar freshmen,” Rosa said. “The past two years we have fallen a bit short, but I think with our new talent in addition with our experience we are going to be a pretty tough team this year.”

The women’s team returns many of their top runners in senior Lauren Jaqua, senior Ashley McBride and junior Kerry Kurta. These three runners competed in the NAIA national championship last year and will look to return to the national meet again this season.

Rosa suffered from injuries the past two years but hopes to discover her full potential on the course this season.

“(This year) I am focusing on enjoying my last season and staying healthy, and if an opportunity arises to really do something great, then I plan on being ready to capitalize on it,” Rosa said.

While the Wildcats have five strong returners, the six newcomers will look to make an impact as well.

Freshman Jillian Benson was recruited from Shawnee Mission West High School. So far, she believes the team works well together and already has a strong bond.

“My expectations for this season are probably just to do the best we can do as a team,” Benson said. “I think our team has a lot of potential so I would really like to see how far we could go.”

With several new faces on the roster, Rosa plans on using her senior status as a way to serve as a leader and role model for the underclassmen on the team. With this, she offers one piece of advice to both the men’s and women’s teams:

“To get better you are going to need to work harder than you ever had before and you’re going to need to trust Coach Kindler,” Rosa said.

The men’s team is coming off its most successful season in recent history with a 10th place finish at the NAIA national meet.

However, the Wildcats will have big shoes to fill after losing five of the top runners from 2012. A class of six decorated seniors completed their final year of eligibility in 2012, and Jeremy and Justin Bryan transferred during the offseason.

Cooper Clark and Garret McPherson are the lone seniors on the Wildcats’ 11-man squad, but five freshmen will look to make a name for themselves as well.

The Wildcats are scheduled to open their season with the Maple Leaf Invitational on Aug. 31 at the Baldwin City golf course. The women’s 4,000-meter race will start at 10:30 a.m., with the men’s 5,000-meter run to follow at 10:55 a.m.