To start off the season, both Mercer men’s and women’s cross country teams each had a strong showing in the University of Georgia Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 1. Overall, Mercer finished third.
For the men, Saturday was an improvement on last year’s fourth pace finish in the same 8k race, while the women moved up three spots from their finish in the 5k last year.
Both Kacie Niemann and Katlyn Will had top-10 finishes for Mercer women. Will, an off-season transfer from Alabama, secured the eighth overall position with a 5K time of 17:39.69. Continuing her success from last season, Niemann finished the race with a time of 17:21.54, a near personal record that had her finishing fourth overall.
On Wednesday after the race, Niemann was named Atlantic Sun Conference Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Week. With her impressive 5K time, she finished fourth out of a possible 63 runners.
Niemann commented on how she was going to continue her success for the duration of her senior season.
“Coach Bailey’s training has never failed me, so the plan for the rest of the season is to do exactly what he says, keep my mileage up, feed off the awesome work ethic of my new training partner, Katlyn Will, and give God the glory no matter what happens.”
The remainder of the women’s team had a good showing as well. For their first race with the program, freshmen Kami Orrender and Jenna Gipperich each ran their 5k in under 20 minutes, aiding Mercer in finishing ahead of former A-Sun rival Campbell in the race. As a team, the women finished with a race average of 18:32.10.
Finishing first for the Mercer men was senior Jacob Law, who finished 14th overall with a time of 27:10.69. Transfer student Lukas Steinheber, who ran last year in Germany, appeared as though he would finish first for Mercer as he actually led the race early on. Unfortunately he was not able to keep the pace of his ardent start and finished 19th overall with a time of 27:20.30
The Bears’ freshmen Davis Trexler and Hunter Honeycutt, along with juniors Sony Prosper and Kasib Abdullah each finished within 10 seconds of one another to achieve a team score of 85.
When asked what her thoughts were on the first meet of the season, Kacie Niemann responded by saying, “I was very excited about how the team performed, especially since two freshmen and a transfer were in the scoring top five. Everyone has been working really hard, so it wasn’t really a big surprise.”
To follow up their strong start to the season, the Mercer men’s and women’s cross country teams came out with another impressive performance at the Auburn Invitational on Friday, Sept. 7.
The men’s team took home third place among eight teams with 72 points, while the women finished fourth out of 11 teams with 119 points. Besides the strong team finish, there were several impressive individual performances on the day as well.
Kacie Niemann had another successful race bringing home a third place finish. She ran the 4k route with a time of 14:34.9, only four seconds behind the second-place runner and 10 seconds faster than her next closest competitor.
The Alabama transfer, Katlyn Will also finished well with a sixth overall position and a time of 14:53.2. Both Will and Niemann led the Bears and finished among the top 10 runners in the first two races of the season.
Junior Lena Hamvas and freshmen Kami Orrender and Lia Sewell were the Bears’ top five finishers in the race. Their times were 15:42.7, 16:41.1, and 16:51.8 respectively.
All seven of the Mercer men’s team finished within one minute of each other, resulting in a third place finish for the team. Junior Sony Prosper and freshman Lukas Steinheber led the way for the Bears.
Prosper finished in 11th place with a time of 19:51.7 in the 6k race while Steinheber finished just behind him in 12th place with a time of 19:56.9 in just his second collegiate race.
Freshman Davis Trexler finished the 6k with a time of 20:07.8 and only a couple of seconds behind him was senior Jacob Law who with finished with a 20:09.9 time. Trexler and Law took 15th and 16th place respectively. Freshman Hunter Honeycutt was not far behind them in 18th place with a time of 20:12.6 in his second collegiate race. Junior Kasib Abdullah rounded out the Bears’ finishers with a time of 20:35.2.
The Bears will return to action on Sept. 29 at the Greater Louisville Classic in Louisville, Kentucky.