The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Freshman standout Joe Stoddard

Freshman Joe Stoddard (117) runs at the 2023 EIU Walt Crawford open. (EIU athletics)

Freshman cross country runner Joe Stoddard has placed in the top five for Eastern at every meet this season, Including the Ohio Valley Conference Championship.

Veteran runner and OVC champion Adam Swanson noted how Stoddard’s production rose exponentially.

“[Stoddard] was one of those guys who flew under the radar like any other person who’s new to a program but quickly stood out being our top freshman,” Swanson said. “He wasn’t scared to take risks and throughout workout and races, it showed.”

He began the season at the EIU Walt Crawford Open. He placed fifth with a time of 26:28.20.

Two weeks later, he shaved off more than 30 seconds at the 2023 Redbird Invite, finishing fourth with a time of 25:52.00. This time is especially impressive considering the hilly terrain of Illinois State’s Weibring Golf Course trail.

Stoddard continued to improve at the 2023 Louisville XC Classic, where he finished fourth with a time of 25:45.70. He was named the Daily Eastern News Panther of the week for his efforts at this meet.

He went on to have his best showing of the season on Oct. 14 at the Bradley “Pink” Classic. He placed third for the Panthers with a time of 25:21.40. This was 24.3 seconds faster than his Louisville time.

Stoddard put the cherry on top of his successful 2023 campaign when he placed 18th at the OVC Championship. He finished fourth for Eastern with a time of 24:35.50. Similarly, to the Redbird Invite, the terrain of Morehead States trail, where the OVC Championship was ran, is quite hilly.

Stoddard noted how he came into Eastern with the plan of improving every race.

“That was one of my big goals for this season, to get better and feel stronger after every race,” Stoddard said. “A lot of that comes back to the training we get from Coach.”

Head Coach Erin Howarth has no doubt contributed to Stoddard’s success as well as the rest of the team.

“Coach is a role model,” Stoddard said. “Coach Howarth has got it figured out; she knows what she’s doing. We really trust her training and the process.”

Stoddard himself noted how proud he was of his freshman season.

“Honestly [this season] was a ten for me,” Stoddard said. “I feel like team-wise this is the best place to be in the NCAA in terms of culture, we really care about each other here. Performance wise, I’ve done pretty well for a freshman.”

Stoddard has certainly proven himself in the eyes of fans and the eyes of the cross-country team. He will be running again for Eastern when the indoor track season begins after Thanksgiving break.

Aidan Cusack can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].

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