Cross country teams have high expectations for Maple Leaf Invitational

Story by Sara

As a new season quickly approaches the Baker University Cross Country teams, both are striving and ready to improve on their accomplishments from 2010.

The women’s team won the Heart of America Athletic Conference championship last season and made an appearance at the NAIA national meet. The men finished second in the conference behind the Yellowjackets of Graceland University.

“For both sides we had a lot more expectation this year,” head coach Zach Kindler said. “So, we have been pushing ourselves a little bit more this year.”

Both teams are looking to contend for the HAAC title and advance to nationals.

“We want to win conference,” senior Chris Scheideman said. “That’s what we’ve focused on for the past couple of years is that. This year is going to be our year, and I think that we are headed that way.”

After having young teams for the past few years, experience has now become an advantage for the Wildcats.

“We (only lost) one person off both the men’s and women’s teams,” Kindler said. “There’s a lot more just total knowledge of what it’s like to run at the college level and especially at the national level as well.”

Top runners are returning for both teams. Sophomores Lauren Jaqua and Megan Rosa will contend at the top for the women and juniors Eric Larson, Aaron Caldwell and Scheideman will lead the men.

Kindler is excited about the shape and depth he has seen from the men so far, but injuries are a concern for the women.

“We’ve had a few girls sit out a few practices just because they’ve been hurting or injured,” Rosa said. “But overall, the team is actually looking pretty strong.”

As the Wildcats try to establish themselves as a powerhouse in the HAAC, top contenders William Jewell College and Lindenwood University left the conference.

“If you look at last year (William Jewell and Lindenwood) weren’t in the top two,” Scheideman said. “But they were still two good teams that really pushed us and really helped us build our conference.”

The teams will compete about every two weeks to help the runners recover and prepare for the next meet.

“It’s kind of one of those (schedules) where we are definitely not competing every weekend, we’re not competing twice a week, it’s structured so that way we’re ready to run each one of those,” Kindler said.

The Wildcats will open their season Saturday at Baldwin Golf Course for the Maple Leaf Invitational.

The women’s 4K is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. and the men’s 5K follows at 10:55 a.m.

The Wildcats are hoping to improve their performances at the Maple Leaf Invitational from last season.

After winning the meet in 2009, the women placed third behind Kansas Wesleyan University and former-HAAC foe William Jewell College last year.

The men’s team finished in a tie for third place with William Jewell and trailed only Johnson County Community College and defending HAAC champion Graceland University.