Men’s cross country healthy with season nearing end

The men’s cross-country team finished 10th out of 25 teams Saturday at the Maple Grove Country Club in West Salem, Wis. The Blugolds went up against some of the best teams in all three college divisions, including nationally ranked teams like the University of Minnesota and UW-Madison.

Junior Matt Goertz led the charge for the ‘Golds, finishing 44th with a time of 26 minutes, 4.3 seconds, out-kicking James Levesh of UW-Stevens Point by 0.4 seconds. Sophomore Ethan Kruel came in next for the Blugolds at 26:16.5, followed by seniors Nick Hardt (26:35.7) and Chad McCartney (26:42.7). Rounding out the top five scorers was freshman Zack Severson, who finished a second behind McCartney at 26:43.7. Junior Jeff Bukart held the sixth spot at 26:53.3.

The Blugolds completed the eight-kilometer course with a spread of only 39.4 seconds between their top five runners, suggesting some very good pack running.

Coach Scott Steuernagel said their goal going into the meet was to maintain a 30-second gap between first and fifth. He feels this type of running will help them in later meets, he said.

“We did a much better job of pack running,” he said. “Our top five ran very, very close this weekend. That’s going to be a key strength of our team.”

Conference rival UW-Stevens Point may have done a slightly better job of packing their runners than the ‘Golds. Goertz was able to finish ahead of their top runner, but the Pointers managed to put three runners in between Goertz and Kruel. This gave them the advantage they needed. They ousted the Blugolds by two spots, finishing 8th overall. Even so, Steuernagel was happy with his team’s performance.

“I think (the meet) went really well,” he said. “I’m really happy with how the team ran. The only teams that beat us were nationally ranked teams.”

Among those teams were conference foes UW-La Crosse, which is ranked fourth, UW-Oshkosh (1) and UW-Stevens Point (11). The Blugolds have yet to achieve a top 25 ranking this year, but they believe they can compete with these teams.

Sophomore Adam Condit, who finished seventh for the ‘Golds Saturday, said he believes the teams best performances are still ahead of them.

“Our best races are yet to come, especially at conference and regions,” he said. “We’ll be healthy and have our full team for only the first or second time all year.”

The Blugolds have had to deal with sickness and injuries all year. In September, Kruel was always ill. McCartney had a bad achilles tendon, which hindered his performance for a few meets.

Now that everyone is getting healthy, Steuernagel and his team are looking forward to the conference meet Nov. 2.

“Oshkosh and La Crosse will go 1-2,” he said. “We’ll challenge Stevens Point, Platteville and Whitewater for that third spot. I think we have a really good chance to finish third, which is exciting.”

The Blugolds are happy with their progress and success so far this season, and are optimistic as they close in on conference and regions.

“Our first couple of meets, we established we were a team that could improve and run well later,” Condit said. “We’re shaping into a team that will run really good races at the end of the year.”