AUGUSTA, KS - The Northwest Kansas Technical College Cross Country Team began its first year of competition under Head Coach, Benjamin Foust at the JK Gold Classic in Augusta, KS hosted by Wichita State University. Four men and one woman competed for the Mavericks. On the Men's side, competitors were Jameslee Banning from Burden, KS (first year Electrical Technology), Patrick Brown from Freeport, Bahamas (first year Engineering Technology), Jason Lang from Melbourne, Australia (first year Business Tech), and Randall Thomas from Manhattan, KS (second year Collision Repair). The lone woman competitor for the Mavericks was Heavenly Alexander from Nashville, TN (first year Crime Scene Investigation).
The Men's College race was the second race of the day, after the High School Varsity Girls' race, which started at 8 am Central Time. The men's race started at 8:25 Central. There were 129 competitors for the College Men's Division. The winning time for the 6 kilometer race (about 3.7 miles) was 18:05.74 by an unattached runner from Wichita State. The lead runner for Northwest Tech was Jameslee Banning, finishing the 6k course 124th in a time of 24:20.86. Second for Tech was Jason Lang in 126th place in a time of 24:43.20. Finishing third for Tech was Randall Thomas in 127th place in a time of 25:11.14. The final finisher for Tech was Patrick Thomas in 129th place in a time of 29:14.00.
While all four of the men were disappointed with their times and places, it served as a good starting point for the rest of the season. We really needed to get that first race out of the way to test the waters and gauge where we are at compared to our competition. While it would seem that we're a little bit behind the curve, it should be noted that none of the four men had competed in Cross Country in the previous season, and two of the four had never competed in Cross Country at any level. We have practiced a lot, but with our level of experience (or inexperience), we needed to see what collegiate cross country would be like.
The biggest goal and subsequent disappointment of the meet for the men was that the one year old school record remains unbroken. This was the only time that Tech will run a 6k this season, meaning this was the only shot to break the school record. So the school record will stand another year at 24:04.10. The team has vowed to break the record next year. After the race, the general tone of the team was positive about what to do regarding practices and how to improve.
The men are looking forward to working together to move their pack from the back to middle or top half of the finishers. We have a group of four men with similar skills and ability levels. As the season progresses, times will come down and placings will go up. We will be competitive as a team by October, without a doubt. We have good intrasquad chemistry and friendly rivalries, which is a huge asset now and will continue to be important as the season progresses.
Tech's next competition is Saturday, September 13th at the "Romp at the Ridge" in Hutchinson. The Men's team will be without Thomas, but will see the first competition from Jordan Ball, a first year Auto Tech student from Bolivar, MO. In two weeks, the Men will have their first team score as it takes 5 runners to count for team points.
The College Women's Race was the third race of the day. The 4k (2.48 mile race) was won by a runner from Kansas State University in 13:44.00. There were 115 competitors in the Women's race. Heavenly Alexander covered the course in 19:56.42, placing 109th.
Alexander's time was not fast enough to unseat the school record of 19:14.84 set last year. Much like the men, she was disappointed with her time and subsequent place. Also, similarly, Alexander had never competed in Cross Country at any level. She has also been nursing a hip injury. She is likely to return to competition next Saturday with the men in Hutchinson, but may sit out a meet to rest. The overall health and well-being of an athlete is more important than missing a competition. There is still plenty of time to recover, regroup, and comeback later in the season stronger and faster than before.
Coach Foust commented, "I am proud of how we did as a team, and as individuals. I'm happy to get the initial competition out of the way. Now we have a much clearer path and sharper focus for the rest of season."