Men’s cross-country places sixth at SLIAC meet

Webster University freshman Jason Hickson had the second-best time of the day for the men’s cross-country team at the Oct. 29 SLIAC championship. PHOTO COURTESY OF DIANE LOPEZ

For the second straight year, the Webster University men’s cross-country team finished sixth in a field of eight teams at the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship on Oct. 29 in Hillsboro, Ill.

Prior to the meet, coach Dusty Lopez had wanted the team to earn at least a fifth-place finish, which would have tied for the best finish in program history. The Gorloks finished fifth in a six-team field in 2009.

“Just like you don’t get too high when there’s a good performance, you don’t want to get too low when there’s a bad one,” Lopez said. “And I don’t mean to say bad — it was just disappointing to not improve on our finish from last year. We knew that the odds were stacked up against us.”

Webster accumulated 146 points at the SLIAC championship, which was 63 points ahead of seventh-place Eureka College. Fontbonne University (120 points) and Westminster College (126 points) finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Principia College won the meet with 33 points, nine points better than Greenville College.

Senior Tony Morales, who has one year of athletic eligibility left and will run for the cross-country team again next fall, had hoped the Gorloks would finish as high as third. But it wasn’t meant to be.

“I wasn’t disappointed at all because I knew third was a long shot,” Morales said. “We’d have to work really hard to get it. But I mean, I wasn’t really happy about getting sixth, either. I don’t think we’re completely satisfied, but there’s always next year.”

Junior Dan Henkey had the best time of the day for Webster on the 8K course with a 27:48. Henkey finished 23rd overall. Freshman Jason Hickson finished seven seconds and two spots behind Henkey. Morales (29th overall), junior Blake Harris (49th overall) and freshman Nate Hitchcock (53rd overall) rounded out Webster’s scoring.

“If I grade the guys, we didn’t have worse than a B+ race,” Lopez said. “We didn’t have anybody lay an egg. When you have a decent race by your own standards and it just isn’t quite good enough, then you know you have to get better. That’s really the bottom line for our guys right now. You just have to keep getting better at a faster pace.”

Webster only has eight runners on its 2011 roster. In comparison, Greenville has 21 runners and Principia has 19. Even though Morales thinks the Gorloks made great strides this year, it wasn’t enough for the team to move up in the SLIAC final standings.

“It just proves how stacked our conference really is,” Morales said. “We’re a lot better than last year, and we’re still sixth place. We’re going to continue to get better and there will probably be some more freshmen coming in next year that will really help. As we get better, the other teams get better. We really have to make a big step forward to look at doing really well.”

Webster has one final meet left on its schedule  — the NCAA Midwest Regional on Nov. 12 in Rock Island, Ill. Lopez said his top five runners, minus Harris, who has been battling an illness, will represent Webster at that meet.

Morales said that with all eight runners returning for next year, the Gorloks have a chance to be better than ever if they put in the work during the offseason.

“This last summer we got together and did group runs, so that was fun,” Morales said. “I feel like had we not done that, some of the guys wouldn’t have ran at all. It’s really all individual. Whatever time they want to put into it is what they’ll get out of it.”

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