Two new leaders emerge

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Two new leaders emerge

Photo by Becky Olson

Photo by Becky Olson

Photo by Becky Olson

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The UW-Eau Claire cross country teams kicked off the season with their first meet Saturday morning at Lowes Creek County Park in Eau Claire.

The meet paired the current teams up against alumni who have graduated from the program. On the women’s side, senior Alana Jenkins crossed the finish line of the 5,000-meter race first from the current team with a time of 20:04. Sophomore Lucy Ramquist followed behind with a time of 20:09 along with senior Nikki Rendler (20:14) and senior Jami Riley (20:18). Jenkins said that the meet was very positive due to not knowing what to expect.

“I think it went really well,” she said. “We had a big pack until the two mile, which was our goal. Obviously we don’t have other schools that we’re competing against,  so it felt really good to know that my teammates were right behind me.”

With the season just getting underway, the team isn’t worried about end of the season goals quite yet. Jenkins said the main goal at this point is for everyone to work together.

“It’s still really early to tell and it’s such a long season because we run until November,” Jenkins said. “ But like I said, it’s like a pack sport, and that’s how teams do really well. So I think today was a good show of that, at least.”

On the men’s side, sophomore Ryan Mugan led the race to end with a time of 20:33 in a course spanning four miles.  Following in his steps were senior Matt Scott (20:49), sophomore Nick Petersson (21:01) and junior Erik Rosvold (21:15).

Mugan said it was nice to finally have an official race to work on things as a team and know where the team is headed. 12 members of this year’s team are freshmen, and he said the experience of the older runners helps the new team members on what they need to do as well.

“They’ve just been around for these four years,” Mugan said. “They kind of let the freshmen know coming in this is what the best guys are doing and obviously just try to meet that.”

Head coach Dan Schwamberger said his focus is taking every practice, workout or meet and try and improve more from the experience they get. He hoped that in a few weeks the teams will have a clearer picture about the end of the season going forward.

Both teams achieved success last season.  The women’s team won their sixth straight conference championship and both teams qualified for Nationals. However, Schwamberger said that he doesn’t want to put the pressure of last season onto this year’s teams.

“There’s definitely some pressure there,” Schwamberger said. “I don’t want them to have to compare to last year. This is a new year.  Obviously, it’s great to see those things this year, but I think it’s a young team so there’s a lot of work to be done before we get to that point.”

Both Blugold teams compete next Saturday, Sept. 14, at the UW-River Falls Invitational.