Cross country strides into fast start 2019 season

At 6:15 p.m. on Aug. 30 the gun fired, sending 40 runners off to the woods at Covenant College’s dual meet. Maryville College’s cross country team has prepped all summer to toe the line. The first meet signified the start of a series of long runs, tempo runs, mile repeats, and 400-meter intervals.

Every year the Scots start out at a dual meet with Covenant because both MC and Covenant are known as the fighting Scots. The course is best described as “uphill both ways,” since there is a massive hill at the one-mile mark and another smaller yet steep hill that leads to the start and finish line.

Freshman Emily Cooper and senior Mikala Wooten start their race strong at the Covenant Mountaintop Invitational.
Photo courtsey: Lynn Mulligan

The Covenant race was a special moment for many runners. On the men’s side, every runner set a new personal or course best for the 5K distance and ended with a team average of 19:52. Senior Daniel Beckett scored in the top five. Richard Martin and Cooper Harrison both finished at over one minute faster than the previous year.

For Junior Lea Mulligan, this race was extra special. She won the women’s race and set a new course best by less than a second.

“I was really excited about my performance here because this year was the most intense summer training I have ever done before a cross country season. It was incredible to see it already paying off the first race of the season,” Mulligan said. The women’s team had an exceptional race placing first out of three teams.

Junior Lea Mulligan runs her race at Covenant College’s Mountaintop Invitational.
Photo courtesy: Lynn Mulligan

On Sept. 14 the men’s and women’s teams drove up to Kentucky for the Berea Mike and Mary Kay Invitational. This year the races were moved up by two hours to accommodate for the heat that’s been affecting the area. For the men’s team, this was their first time racing the full distance: eight kilometers. The women’s team moved up from the two miles to the 5K distance.

The men started their race first, two hours earlier than the previous years. Much like the Covenant race, most of the athletes ran a course best. Senior Daniel Beckett was the leader on the men’s side with a time of 27:50, and Ryan Lay ran a time of 29:57, which is 15 seconds off his all-time personal best.

Senior Lee Parker sprints up the final hill to finish his race at the Covenant Mountaintop Invitational.
Photo courtsey: Lynn Mulligan

The women’s race was similar to previous years. It started about the time the heat and humidity clashed for a perfect storm. Mulligan and sophomore Lilly Simms started off strong, leading the pack. The women also performed exceptionally strong, with every runner setting a course best as well. Simms ran a personal best of 19:40. She prides herself with her first sub-20 5K, as well as being awarded the USA South Rookie and Runner of the week for her performance.

“I felt like Berea was a fast course, and I was feeling really good that day. I was able to get out and get a good spot in the lead pack,” Simms said.

Freshman Parker Owens races his first collegiate 5K on Covenant’s cross country course.
Photo courtesy: Lynn Mulligan

“The first two races of the season were very strong across the whole team. Everyone is working hard, and it’s been showing throughout each race,” said senior Rebecca Starks. 

Both men and women are excited for what’s to come.

“I think my first two races were a good start, and I’m seeing a lot of improvement over last year. I’m finding my strength in practices again, which makes me pretty optimistic about the rest of the season,” said junior Richard Martin.

Sophomore Lilly Simms runs up the final hill to end the two mile course.
Photo courtesy: Lynn Mulligan

The Scots are looking forward to flatter courses the rest of the season and are excited to race at new courses in Louisville, Ky. and Charlotte, N.C. in the coming weeks.

The Maryville College cross country team poses for a picture after the awards ceremony.
Photo courtesy: Lynn Mulligan

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