Cross country faces challenges at SCAC championship

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Photo courtesy of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference

After a suspended fall season and countless twists and turns in policies surrounding COVID-19 precautions, men’s and women’s cross country finally debuted Feb. 6 at the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Championship. Eight men and five women represented Dallas.

The men’s 8K team was headed up by a quintet of freshman, competing collegiately and scoring for Dallas for the first time: Nico Walz (Irving), Jonathan Cantu (Dallas), Ryan Connor (Overland Park, Kansas), Luke LaCour (Metairie, Louisiana), and James LaTour (Lubbock, Texas). 

Cross Country coach Nick Schneigert commented over text: “Our men’s side top five was all freshmen including our 2019 TAPPS 6A state champion Jonathan Cantu.” Although this squad has brought remarkable talent to the program, Schneigert attributed their sixth place team finish to strategy. 

Schneigert said: “Cantu and I agreed for this meet to jump out to the top five. He was in 1st and got swallowed up after the mile. We should of had him in the top 10. Ryan Connor, our number 4, started way out in front and he got swallowed up. I know if we had a different strategy we could of placed in the top half. It’s OK, it’s COVID year and honestly it was about getting experience.” 

Nico Walz, who headed up the freshman squad, wrote in a text: “Despite the usual pre-run anxiety and typical race day difficulties, which were only heightened this year by COVID, there was a particular easiness to running for a team and a school that I really love. I felt encouraged all the way through, and in my mind, I ran one of the best races of my life.”

The women’s team similarly faced challenges heading into the championship. Schneigert said, “Our women’s team was hit with COVID and illnesses. I pretty much was lucky to have a team on the women’s side. I only had two healthy females from the fall.” 

The Crusaders were led by senior Emma Kate Callahan (Overpark, Kansas) and freshman Grace Ebberwein (Wichita, Kansas). The team was rounded out by freshmen Megan Scott (Hudson, Massachusetts) and Isabella Saad (Spartanburg, South Carolina) and junior Isabella Childs (St. Mary’s, Kansas). The women’s team also finished sixth. 

Callahan landed a 6K PR of 24:04.1 to finish her collegiate career, but missed all-conference honors by a single place. Callahan commented over text, “I’m really thankful that I was able to race at least one last time before graduating. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t have a normal season but it was super exciting to see so many of the freshman race for the first time … I feel that I can finally say with St. Paul: ‘I have competed well; I have finished the race.’”

Although this season was filled with complications and difficulties for the program, Schneigert has high hopes for the program moving into track season and the 2021 cross country season. 

Schneigert said: “We can put an asterisk to this year’s conference championships. All of the freshmen are doing track which will help us tremendously … I honestly believe we will place 3rd at next year’s conference championships with more experience and the recruits I have been working on coming here. In a few years, I believe we will be knocking on the door for a conference championship.”

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