Head coach Tony Veney and assistant coach Mike Hickey have been busy rebuilding the cross country teams.
Careful recruiting and heightened training over the past two seasons has resulted in what every team strives for: improvement.
“We’ve definitely gotten better over the last year. Expectations have risen and the team expects more out of themselves. It’s nice to see. They’re coming together,” Hickey said.
The men’s and women’s teams continued to challenge themselves this past Saturday at the Willamette Invitational, held at Salem’s Bush Park.
The women ran a strong 5K race, placing sixth out of nine Division I squads with 139 points. Jenny Rodgers placed eighth among Division I competition with a time of 17 minutes, 40 seconds. Annie Kawasaki at 18:04 and transfer runner Mandy Peterson at 18:43 also turned in impressive performances. All three of their times showed a marked improvement over their previous records.
The team was excited to come in ahead of the solid University of Portland squad, a team that has dominated Portland State University in past meets.
Letiwe Marakurwa, of the University of Idaho, won the race with a time of 16:57. Her team also took first place in the meet with a score of 46.
The men did not fare as well as the women. In their 8K race, they placed fifth out of five teams with a score of 103.
Mike Kebbe had a breakout run with a time of 24:48 and came in at eighth place among fellow Division I runners, 33rd overall. Chris Hollis, probably the most consistent Viking runner so far this season, placed 18th in Division I, 53rd overall, with a time of 25:12. Freshman Mike Davenport also placed respectably at 22nd in Division I and 62nd overall with a time of 25:28.
The University of Portland won the men’s race with 21 points.
Overall, Hickey was impressed with the Viking effort.
“I’m excited about where we’re headed,” he said. “Last week at Stanford was a major turning point. This week was an opportunity for the team to grow and get better, and I think we did that. I’m very pleased with where we’re at and where we’re going.”
The cross country team will take the weekend off before returning to competition Oct. 19 at the Cal Poly Invitational in San Louis, Calif.