Newcomers lead the way in cross country

by Seth Albers, reporter

As another school year begins at Simpson College, Storm cross country season begins as well. The team has been practicing for over two weeks now and the young squad feels ready for the start of the 2014 season, kicking off at the Bill Buxton Invitational at Pickard Park in Indianola.

Last season, both the men’s and women’s teams finished sixth at the conference meet and are looking to climb up further in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (IIAC) rankings. The Storm expect to face stiff competition amongst conference foes, with the IIAC routinely sporting nationally ranked programs in men’s and women’s cross country.

“Both squads are looking to place in the top half of the conference. Annually the IIAC is one of the nation’s toughest conferences and this year is no different,” said head coach Heath Moenck.

This year’s squad lost some key contributors from last season on both the men and women’s teams. Joe Farrand, Bryce Phillips and Max Nguyen all graduated this past year for the men’s side, while the women lost Lindsey Borgomainerio, the top finisher at the regional meet last year. The women will also be without Raelea Jones, who is spending the semester in Australia in a study abroad program.

There could be a few challenges and hurdles early on this season due to a very young group of athletes, but junior Nick Yaeger believes otherwise.

“It [the youth] will not hurt us,” Yaeger said when asked about the lack of senior leadership. “Miles (Kirts) has really stepped up to fill the void.”

 “Both squads are young and inexperienced, but hungry for success,” Moenck said. “I’m excited to see how both groups respond to the challenges that every season presents.”

The women do have a small foundation of seniors to lean on this year, including seniors Lauren Doocy and Emily Manning. As a whole, the team is dominated by underclassmen who all show great promise. Briana McCloksey, Erin Boggess, Jess Gronke and Bree Gaster all ran in the regional meet last year and are poised to make large strides this season. Newcomers Sadie Timms and Courtney Neuendorf are a couple young runners to look out for this coming season as well.

On the men’s side, Ethan Pellegrino and Nick Yaeger are both on track to contribute heavily to the team’s success. Runners Blake Willadsen, Miles Kirts and Andy Mayes are also back from last year’s regional team. 

Simpson’s membership in the IIAC will prove tough again this season as it boasts two nationally ranked squads, Central College (5) and Loras College (14), who are both ranked in the top 15 of the national pre-season rankings. Teams such as Luther College and defending conference champion Wartburg College will continue to be tough competition as well. 

Last Friday was Simpson’s season opener for the men’s and women’s cross country teams. Both teams took home second place finishes out of 6 teams at the Bill Buxton Invitational at Pickard Park in Indianola, with freshman Sadie Timms a team best second place individual finish and Nick Yaeger leading the men’s with a 12th place finish. This will be the teams’ only meet in Indianola this season before returning to Indianola for the IIAC Championship on Nov. 1st in search of NCAA Central Regional Championship qualification spots in Pella, IA on Nov. 15th