After a solid performance at the first meet of the season, Coach Barber and the Crusaders went to the Texas Lutheran University (TLU) Bulldog Invitational ready to improve.
“[Our strategy was to] come out in an easy first mile then pick off pairs of TLU runners over the last two miles,” head coach Matthew Barber said.
Sophomore Thomas Hogan not only executed the strategy but also exceeded expectations with an impressive 16:33.99. He crossed the finish line right behind an unattached runner from the University of the Incarnate Word, and nabbed the Crusader’s first one-point finish since 2007.
Freshman John James followed Hogan’s performance with a personal best and top four time of 16:48.30, and as a team, the Crusaders bettered their times from last year’s meet and finished in second place overall.
On the women’s side, sophomore Bridget Kennedy led the pack with a time of 20:20.17. Despite being an underclassman, she proved to be a leader for the Lady Crusaders.
The team seems to be naturally following her leadership, and Kennedy seems to be embracing the added responsibility by delivering guidance to the young team.
“I feel like an old soul since the team is so young,” Kennedy said. “It doesn’t feel much different from my high school running career, having been team captain for my high school team for two years. I like being a leader.”
After junior Angela Moore finished close behind Kennedy with a fourth place time of 20:29.28, it seemed like there would be some friendly rivalries, but Kennedy does not see any.
“I wouldn’t say there are any individual rivalries, but there is definitely some healthy competition within the team,” Kennedy said. “Ultimately, the goal is to place highly as a team, so this sort of competition allows us to continue pushing each other in order to keep moving in the right direction toward our end goal.”
This team-centered attitude showed across the board as the rest of the team came together to finish with either personal or season-best times.
“Coach Barber has done a fantastic job this year with grouping runners together into packs,” Kennedy said. “These packs really helped us keep our pace, push through the pain until the end of the race, and place higher as a team.”
Overall, the Lady Crusaders also notched a second place finish and hope to carry this confidence into their upcoming meets.
The cross-country team will be taking time to rest, but they will be back on the trails on Oct. 1 at the East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) Invitational.