Promise shown from Cross Country opening meet

Alex Hartman, Cross Country Reporter

The Eastern cross country program competed in its first meet of the season at the annual Walt Crawford open on Friday.

With the weather creating optimal running conditions the six competing Division I schools of Bradley, EIU, Illinois, Murray State, Southeast Missouri SIUE, and individual groups from Kaskaskia College, Lincoln College, Illinois Central, Danville Area CC and Vincennes University, were all ready to compete at a high level.

The race was highly contested throughout and was down to wire for first place for both the men and women.  The meet was also a Double Dual style, which meant each school was competing against each school for points.

Eastern fared well in its opening race of the year, with the men ending with a 4-1 double dual record and the women finishing with a 3-2 record; both sides had a loss to Illinois.

Overall, it was a good meet for Eastern cross country on both sides and is a great place to start the season off.

“There were some big PR’s on our team today,” assistant coach Brad Butler said. “The team has been working hard and have some gaps to close, but it was a solid meet and we hope to see more strong finishes as the season goes on.”

There were some personal best times on the team, but the most impressive came from the Eastern first-place runner for the men, freshman Dustin Hatfield, who won the race with an 8K time of 25 minutes 9.03.

He was followed closely by senior runner Chris Orlow in second place with a time of 25 minutes 17.39. The freshman had an impressive day and is hoping to compete that well all year, he said.

“I enjoy the higher level of competition at the college level, and it felt good to compete hard with Chris and Jaime. My goal is to be all-conference and possibly an All-American,” Hatfield said.

The new face on the team could become the face of the team in the future if he continues to perform at this high level.

For the women, senior runner Maria Baldwin finished just shy of first place with a second-place 5K time of 17 minutes 55.73. She would have notched her third-consecutive Walt Crawford Open first-place finish, but Kaitlyn Shea from Southeast Missouri finished the race just seven seconds faster.

Eastern has a two-week break before it goes on the road to race at the Bradley Intercollegiate Sept.15.

Alex Hartman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]