2016 cross country preview


Khadijah Lane

Freshman Ziara McDowell speeds up near the end of the women’s 4K Saturday morning at the Baldwin City Golf Course.

Men’s Overview

The 2015 men’s cross country season ended just shy of a nationals berth. The Wildcats placed third at the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship, just six points behind Mount Mercy for a spot at nationals. Senior Jamie Steury did make his way to Charlotte, North Carolina, to run in the national meet after finishing fifth at conference. Overall the team performed well, finishing third in three of their six meets.

Women’s Overview

The 2015 season was not an overwhelming success for the women’s cross country team. Many events resulted in middle-of-the-pack team finishes, so there is much room for improvement. In the conference championship, the Wildcats finished seventh out of 14 teams. Rosie Hollis, however, ended the season with several top finishes and a trip to NAIA Nationals.

Men’s Returners

The men will be led by Steury and five other seniors including Carter Breithaupt, Andrew Dare, Andrew Emanuels, Corey Matteson and Tyler Randall. Steury, Matteson and junior Joe Linder led the Baker runners in almost every meet. Junior Johnny Fulkerson and sophomores Daniel Rivera, Cole Stallard and Mariq Stigler also remain on the team. Three freshmen will join the team as well.

Women’s Returners

Sophomore Jenna Black was the standout of last year’s freshman class. In her first collegiate race, she finished 13th out of 56 runners. She continued finishing near the top of the Baker roster consistently. The junior returners include Caitlin Apollo, Rachel Campbell and Ziara McDowell.

“The team has grown a lot since my freshman year,” Campbell said. “We have really good leadership and we all get along great, which will help a lot as we progress through the season.”

Amanda Moody and Shelby Stephens are the only senior members, but there are three new runners added to the team. Freshmen Janeane Hernandez and Annie Schmucker will add some depth to the roster, while junior transfer Bailey Horlander will continue her collegiate career with the Wildcats.

Men’s Departures

Graduated senior Gunnar Hayes had several top 50 finishes last season and will need to be replaced.

Women’s Departures

The women’s cross country team did not graduate any seniors last year, but with leaders Rosie Hollis and Brenda McCollum both studying abroad this semester, there’s a large gap to fill at the top of the roster. Hollis and McCollum both finished at or near the top of the Baker lineup at almost every meet of the 2015 season. Madison Dispensa was also a contributor as a freshman last year, but she has transferred to another school.

First Event

The ‘Cats host the Maple Leaf Invitational on Sept. 3. Last year the men’s team took third out of six teams. Individually, Matteson took seventh while Steury, Linder and Dare all had top 20 finishes. For the women, Hollis placed first in the 2015 Maple Leaf Invitational, which earned her the Heart Runner of the Week honors.

Men’s Outlook

This 2016 team is very experienced, which should lead to more success and possibly even reaching the podium at the conference meet. Another trip to nationals, like the one in 2014, would be the perfect ending to this senior class’ successful careers.

Women’s Outlook

With experienced runners on the team, the ‘Cats will remain competitive for top spots in each meet.

“As a team we talk about just taking it one meet at a time so our biggest goal is trusting that it will get us to where we want to be,” Campbell said.

Getting a higher finish in the conference championship would be a success, and ultimately having runners qualify for nationals would be a great accomplishment.