Big strides expected from men’s, women’s cross country teams

by Mallory Dirks, Special to The Simpsonian

INDIANOLA, Iowa — The Simpson men’s and women’s cross country teams are off to a great start, winning the Bill Buxton Invitational at Pickard Park last Friday to kick off the season.

Head coach Heath Moenck said he is excited for the upcoming season.

“I don’t see any reason why we can’t get into the top 10 (regionally) this year,” said Moenck of the men’s team. “That’s our goal, and I think it’s very realistic this year.”

Sophomore runner Trey Thompson placed third on the team at the conference meet last year, but Moenck expects him to improve this year after a successful track season in the spring.

“He’s still trying to figure this running thing out,” Moenck said. “He’s a raw, low-mileage guy, but if he can continue to stay healthy, I feel really good about him helping us out.”

Thompson, along with three other veteran runners — seniors Ethan Pellegrino and Blake Willadsen and junior Ian McKenzie — lead the squad.

Willadsen was named Team MVP last year after leading the team in every race, including a 17th-place finish at the Iowa Conference meet and a 38th-place finish at the NCAA Regional Championships.

McKenzie finished just behind Willadsen at the Iowa Conference meet and the NCAA Regional Championships, placing second on the team at every meet he competed in.

Pellegrino is a three-year letter winner for the squad, bringing varsity experience, along with his five places in the team’s top seven runners last year.

The women’s team boasts five returning seniors for the year, who have been together since Day One of their freshman year.

“We have five seniors who were on the team when we beat one team in the region their freshmen year,” Moenck said. “Last year we moved up to 15th of 30 teams. They’ve improved each year, so the challenge is to improve four straight years and leave this program in a better spot than where they found it.”

There are four specific girls to watch this season: seniors Bri McCloskey and Jessie Gronke, and juniors Sadie Timms and Courtney Neuendorf.

McCloskey placed in the team’s top seven in all six meets last year, placing 36th at the Iowa Conference Championship and 99th at the NCAA Regional Championships.

After a breakthrough track season, Neuendorf looks to improve in cross country as well.

She also placed in the top seven at four meets, including the Iowa Conference meet, where overall she placed 44th and the NCAA Regional Championships, where she placed 90th.

Gronke is seen as a team leader in the eyes of her coach, as a senior who has strongly competed the last three years. Last season, she placed 38th at the Iowa Conference meet and 140th at the NCAA Regional Championships.

Timms led the team in three meets last year, including the Iowa Conference meet where she placed 20th overall, and the NCAA Regional Championship where she was 54th overall. She also had a successful track season in the spring.


Sept. 16: Grand View Invitational @ Des Moines
Sept. 23: Brissman-Lundeen Invitational @ Rock Island, Illinois.
Oct. 1: The Running of the Cows @ Northfield, Minnesota.
Oct. 14: Loras Invitational @ Dubuque
Oct. 29: IIAC Championships @ Storm Lake
Nov. 12: NCAA Central Regional Championships @ Northfield, Minnesota
Nov. 19: NCAA Division III Championships @ Louisville, Kentucky.