In the women’s 5-kilometer race, freshman Emily Kemling paced the Bluejays with a 13th-place finish among a field of 88 with a time of 19 minutes, 39 seconds.
“We wanted her to, in that first mile, get out well,” coach Joel Allen said. “Then there was a pretty hilly section right after it that she had to get through, so (we) wanted her to hold her place at that point and then start really making an aggressive move in the second half of the race to attempt to push up in that top 10.”
Sophomore Julie Loewen finished not far behind, crossing the finish line in 19:55, good for 17th overall. She trimmed 22 seconds from her time at the championships a year ago.
“(Emily and Julie) both had good races,” Allen said. “It was a tough meet.”
Senior Katey Whitesell was 40th (season-best 21:19), bettering last year’s KCAC time by 37 seconds.
“She really struggled last year, so it was nice to see her be able to put in a better effort than that,” Allen said. “She’s struggled with some injury stuff and getting 100 percent healthy, and that process is still kind of continuing, so it was nice to see her have a performance that was, at the very least, good enough to be encouraging.”
Freshman Lindsay Crist was 54th (22:06), senior Maggie Ramirez 73rd (23:47), and freshman Kelsey Nitzsche 88th (28:44).
The women’s team finished seventh of 12 with a score of 183. Friends won with 72. The Bluejays were picked 11th in the preseason poll.
“I’m really proud of the women’s team because they did improve a ton from the last year,” Allen said. “I think a big part of it is we added a few people that made a pretty big impact. As a group, they trained hard all season. They had goals clearly in their mind and they worked after them, and that made it possible for us to finish where we finished.”
Meanwhile, Bluejay newcomer Thomas Bacon, a junior, was Tabor’s top finisher in the men’s 8-k race, placing 34th among a field of 95 with a personal-best time of 27:51.
“I’m really excited because I think that he’s got a shot at being pretty good,” Allen said. “It isn’t going to be a question of if he gets good, just how fast can we get him to reach his potential.”
Senior Josh Richert crossed the finish line in 49th place with a season-best time of 28:52. He trimmed 9 seconds from his time last year.
“He had a strong end of the season,” Allen said. “Josh’s real talent is on the track, and so it was good to see him put together a little bit on the cross-country course. He and Adam did a good job in the second half of the race of really working together and helping each other to the finish line.”
Freshman Adam Burum was 53rd in a personal-best 29:01, while freshman Riley Ballou-Lyngstad was 60th (personal-best 29:29), and junior newcomer Avery Franz 80th (personal-best 32:45).
The men’s team finished eighth of 12 with a score of 243. Saint Mary won with 27, sweeping the top three individual places. The Bluejays were picked seventh in the preseason poll.
“Basically everyone on the men’s team ran a season-best and some PR’d,” Allen said. “That was pretty awesome to see.”
In reflecting on his first season as head coach, Allen said:
“Obviously, I think as a first-year in anything, you’ve got a lot to learn, and so I’ve been doing my best to keep up a little bit. I’ve had two groups that were relatively easy to work with.
“The women, I think, felt a strong sense of team and wanting to work their hardest towards a goal. I think the men over time had to come into that a little bit.
“The men realized that for the most part, our talent is on the track. We’ve got basically four middle distance runners running for us and one more distance-oriented guy, so it really was just a maturation throughout the season.”