Runners to start season with home meet


Story by Sara

After ending its season placing in the top 25 at the NAIA National Championships in 2011, the Baker University men’s cross country team is craving more.

The Wildcats received a bid to nationals last year after edging out Graceland University in the Heart of America Athletic Conference Championship. Six seniors return from the championship team, and six freshmen came in to help make up the 17-man roster.

“Obviously we are very excited about this season,” head coach Zach Kindler said. “I think we have an opportunity to do some things even better than what we did last year.”

The team grabbed the final spot in the NAIA Men’s Cross Country Top 25 Poll, and is the only team in the HAAC to a receive a national ranking.

Senior Aaron Caldwell said competing at the national level “whet the team’s appetite” for the new season.

“I think last year was just one of those moments where we finally realized what we could do,” Caldwell said. “Our goal for this year is to go as high as we can go, and we know we have the talent right now where we can be a top 15 or top 20 team in the nation.”

Caldwell said the team is healthy and is the best it has looked this early in the season.

“This is our fittest team to ever come into this school and probably the most talented,” Caldwell said.

The men’s team will begin its season Sept. 1 by running a 5,000-meter race at home for the Maple Leaf Invitational.

The women’s team will also start off its season with a 4,000-meter race at the Baldwin Country Club.

In 2011, the women’s team fell behind the Eagles of Central Methodist University in the HAAC Championships, but is looking to reclaim the crown.

“We had a successful season last year, but we didn’t win conference like we were planning,” junior Ashley McBride said. “That’s in our brains right now. We are all ready to go for the whole season already. I think we are all excited about it.”

The team will return seven athletes from last season, but added no new runners to the roster.

However, Kindler said the team’s bond will help it reach the level of success it is hoping to achieve.

“Last year we were on top but I don’t think we had the same desire,” Kindler said. “We did get beat. We saw some success during track and now we want that to carry over. We want to be conference champions and I think that is what is going to carry us this year.”

During the Wildcats’ first week of practice, the men’s and women’s teams competed in a 3,000-meter time trial. The Baker men’s and women’s time trial records were broken during the race and the athletes saw a number of improvements from last season.

Freshman Jeremy Bryan broke the record for the men and junior Megan Rosa now leads the women.