Cross-country set for NCAA regional

Senior+Julie+James+leads+a+pack+of+runners+during+the+Bradley+%27Pink%27+Classic+Friday%2C+Oct.+14+at+Newman+Golf+Course+in+Peoria%2C+Ill.

Justin Brown

Senior Julie James leads a pack of runners during the Bradley 'Pink' Classic Friday, Oct. 14 at Newman Golf Course in Peoria, Ill.

Kaitlin Cordes, Cross Country Reporter

14 members of the cross-country team will represent Eastern at the NCAA Midwest Regional Friday afternoon in Iowa City, Iowa.

The women competing for Eastern include seniors Ruth Garippo, Rachel Garippo, Ivy Handley, Emily Breslfoard and Julie James, along with junior Maria Baldwin and freshman Sadie Elliot. Freshman Jocelyne Mendoza will serve as the team’s alternate runner.

On the men’s side, seniors Riley McInerney, Tyler Yunk, Paxson Menard and Juan Barajas will be joined by junior Chris Orlow and freshmen Marcus Skinner and Robby Prescott. Freshman Michael Mest is the alternate.

The Eastern men enter the race ranked at No. 15 in the Midwest, a ranking given by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in early September.

The men will run a 10-kilometer race for the first time this season, competing against 33 schools in the region. The women will trek 6 kilometers against 36 schools from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and Oklahoma.

Eastern coach Erin Howarth said the enormity of the race is what makes this competition special.

“This is a much more competitive and much bigger meet than all the others. There’s much more at stake,” she said.

Howarth cited Oklahoma State and Iowa State as standouts in both the men and women’s divisions. The two teams were ranked as the top two in the region after the regular season.

For senior Ruth Garippo, this meet is unique because it is her final cross-country regional.

“This regional meet is a little different than past regional meets as it will be my last ever cross-country Regionals. I am excited to represent EIU this Friday and race next to my teammates, many of whom are seniors as well,” Garippo said.

Garippo said for this meet, she will continue to focus on the middle portion of her race, which she has emphasized throughout the season. Last year, Garippo was left feeling content with her performance at the regional, and she said she wants to feel as though she gave it her all this time around.

The women’s team finished last year’s regional 21st overall with Baldwin leading the team with her 67th place time of 21 minutes, 42.6 seconds. Handley crossed the finish line in 87th with a time of 21:59.8, followed by Kristen Rohrer, Rachel Garippo and Mendoza.

McInerney led the Eastern men last year, finishing 24th with a time of 30:40.1. Menard was Eastern’s second-highest finisher with a time of 31:23.0 at the 52nd overall spot.

Yunk, Barajas and junior Michael Brown were the final three scored runners for Eastern.

Oklahoma State won both the men and women’s competitions, followed by Minnesota and Oklahoma on the men’s side and Iowa State and Minnesota on the women’s side.

Garippo summed the regional competition up as a race in which athletes give it everything they have.

“Regionals is a ‘do or die’ type of meet for many teams, and you can feel that excitement, confidence, determination, and nerves coming from other teams,” Garippo said. “You are surrounded around teams who contend for Nationals, and to be amongst so many talented athletes is an opportunity no one must take for granted.”

The women’s race will begin at 11 a.m., followed by the men’s race at noon on the Ashton Cross Country Course at the University of Iowa.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]