Simpson XC teams closing the gap on top programs


by Hunter Hillygus, Sports Editor

INDIANOLA, Iowa — With any sport, it’s important to be peaking at the right time, and the men’s and women’s cross country teams are doing just that.

Coming off arguably their best meets of the season at the Loras Invitational where the men and women finished third and second, respectively, as well as having three top ten finishers apiece, the Storm are poised to make some noise at the Iowa Conference Championships Saturday.

“That was really important we had that watershed moment where we all did well on the men’s and women’s side. It’s important we keep that going because this is where it really counts,” said senior Blake Willadsen. “The conference meet is where we show how we can compete against other schools. This is where all the work we’re putting in back in June counts.”

Unlike most sports, cross country runners only have one opportunity during the season to go head-to-head with other conference foes. The Storm runners know that a good showing at the conference meet is a chance to place themselves among some of the top programs in the IIAC, one of the strongest cross country conferences in the country. Loras and Nebraska Wesleyan are ranked inside the top 30 nationally on the men’s side and Nebraska Wesleyan and Wartburg are ranked inside the top 30 on the women’s side.

“This is extremely important for the program because it is our opportunity to display all our hard work we have been doing since June,” said senior Jessie Gronke. “Unlike other sports, we only get one shot at competing solely against conference teams and having it be considered a conference meet and we want to make sure that it is a successful meet.”

While the conference meet provides an opportunity to compete directly with conference schools, it also offers a chance for the program to cement themselves among the more established programs in the conference.

Last season, the men’s and women’s teams finished fifth and sixth at the conference meet, respectively. This season, head coach Heath Moenck expects that the Storm can close the gap on the top programs in the IIAC.

“It would be great on our men’s side to get in there and knock off one of those five regionally ranked teams. On the women’s side, if we can get everyone to the start line, I think we have a good chance to be fifth or sixth. We tied Central last year, they got us on a tiebreaker, so it would be great to kind of get them back,” Moenck said. “It’s a big challenge to improve in the conference, but we need to start. It’s been long enough.”