by: Erika Gwinn
Both the men and women’s cross country teams have started the new season with a bang. The first race of the season was on Friday, September 9th, at the Carroll Early Bird Open in Helena, Montana. Both teams ran away with second place nishes, a hopeful beginning to the new team.
Sophomore, Benson Koech, led the Rocky Mountain College men’s team across the finish line, placing second in the 6k race with a time of 19:18.47. Teammates Fred (Senior) and Isaac Petsch (Sophomore) followed close behind with times of 19:43.03 and 19:52.76. Senior, Mackenzie O’Dore quickly made her way to the front of the competition placing 3rd to lead the Rocky pack in the women’s 5k race. She crossed the finish line with a time of 19:37.48 followed by teammates Cassidy Rude (Sophomore) with 20:33.60 and Courtney Hallock (Sophomore) with 20:47.93.
The anticipation was evident as the team spent the day together warming up, encouraging each other, joking around, and discussing goals for the upcoming season. Referring to the women’s team, Senior Mackenzie O’Dore said, “Second place as a team is a great start to the season. But being so young, I think we will make huge improvements by [the time of] conference. We are really coming together as a team, and the ladies are very passionate and encouraging at practice. It’s exciting to see!”
Senior Fred Petsch expressed similar optimistic ambitions about the men’s team. He said, “I want to push my teammates to be as fast as they can be, and by doing that, I should become a faster runner as well. In the school’s history, Rocky has never won a conference championship and that is something I want to bring to this school. It will be a challenge since we are in one of the most competitive conferences, but I believe that we have the people on this team to make my dream a reality.” Both Petsch and O’Dore are influential leaders on the men and women’s teams. They push to reach their full potential as individual athletes and as teammates, working hard to run between 60-70 miles during a training week.
For the past couple years, the team has been working through a rebuilding stage. With the coaches’ recruitment and leadership, the team welcomed two new athletes to the men’s team and twelve strong freshmen to the women’s team. Head coach, Mike McLean, said that we’ve brought in an “outstanding group of freshmen as the newcomers are doing very well in their first collegiate season.” Coach McLean’s positive influence on the team has increased the number of participating athletes. He offers a personable and down-to-earth attitude to each person he meets. McLean is willing to meet every athlete from where they are to work towards reaching realistic goals. On the bus ride home from Helena, McLean spent nearly the entire ride sitting next to each individual athlete to talk about their race and their plan to move forward in training. Rocky alumni and former cross country runner, Jessica Raymond (2015) said “He’s [McLean] the best coach I’ve ever had! He had a great training program for both boys and girls that not only led the team to reach continuous personal records, but also gave me the desire to keep running after college.”
The varsity men and women’s teams ran at the Montana State Invitational in Bozeman, Montana this past weekend on Saturday, September 17th. Many of the teams were from NCAA Division 1 schools, so it was a great opportunity to challenge our athletes to continue to improve. The men’s team took 11th overall and the women took 14th. In the NAIA coaches poll, the men’s team was ranked 20th and women’s 26th. Both cross country teams have started off to promising seasons.
The team’s next meet is on Friday, September 23rd in Great Falls, Montana.