The Webster University cross-country teams raced against the toughest schools they may see all season at the Sean Earl Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 29 in Chicago. They competed with 51 other schools, nine of which were Division-I universities such as the University of Wisconsin, Southern Illinois University and Purdue University.
The Gorlok men finished 34th out of 47 teams, and the women placed 40th out of 51 teams.
“I feel OK about it,” men’s and women’s cross-country coach Kelly Parlsey said. “We had some good performances, but coming off of the last meet, I knew it would be a challenge since there were a lot of personal bests made.”
Though the teams were up against a tougher course that ran along Lake Michigan this week, their D-I competition actually helped the Gorloks. Junior Heather Heisse led the Gorlok women with a time of 20:10, which is the third fastest 5K time in school history.
“When you are put up against girls who can run really, really fast, you’re going to put up some of your best times,” Heisse said.
Parsley and Heisse believe the biggest factor of the race was not who was there, but how many people were there. The field for the men included 565 runners, and the women total was 490.
“I wish they would have done two different races (for the women),” Heisse said. “There were so many of us it made it hard to move so we were getting elbowed, and it was just too crowded.”
Two different men set top-10 Webster records in 8K races. Senior Ethan Jefferies finished with a time of 27:39, sixth fastest all-time. Sophomore Jason Hickson finished four seconds later, the seventh fastest all-time. They finished 195th and 200th in their race, respectively.
This marks the halfway point for the cross-country season, and the team is satisfied but expects improvements.
“I think our men are running very well, but the women are struggling due to injury,” Parlsey said.
Two of last year’s top five women runners have been out this season. One of those injured runners, sophomore Kassandra Ocho, will return this week, bringing hope to the team to repeat as St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Association champions.
“I think we are in great shape,” Heisse said. “We have a great chance to do what we did last year.”
The team’s next meet is the Jackling Jocks Invitational in Rolla, Mo., on Saturday, Oct. 6. They will be running against all Division-II teams. Parsley scheduled the meet so that the parent supporters would have a meet closer to home that they could travel to.
“Just having them around makes the run more sentimental,” Heisse said. “I think it will help us to do a little better.”