With a more-than-powerful performance at their own RunFit Sports Invitational, the Mercer men’s and women’s cross country teams looked to take their success on the road. The next challenge for the Bears was in Louisville, Ky., on Oct. 1, at the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic.
This was a homecoming of sorts for two of Mercer’s top runners, one on the women’s side and one on the men’s. Juniors Kacie Niemann and Jacob Law both hail from the Louisville area and were previously familiar with the course, which leads to a great advantage.
“Knowing the course so well makes a big difference, because you know exactly where the tough parts are, so you can mentally prepare yourself before you get to it, and you know how to take advantage of the good parts like where crowds of people are cheering, and downhills,” Niemann commented when asked about the advantages of being familiar with a course.
The Bears wanted to have a great showing, and that is exactly what they did. The women’s team finished ninth out of 32 teams in their flight while the men’s team finished 27th out of 29 in the top flight of competition at the race.
The women’s team was able to clinch their ninth place finish thanks to the efforts of hometown hero Kacie Niemann. Despite battling a stomach virus, Niemann came out with her eyes on the prize. She finished her 5K race with the second-fastest time in Mercer history. Niemann finished fourth overall in the race with a time of 18:12.53, and now owns the top four times in a 5K race in Mercer history.
With Niemann leading the way, four other runners were able to achieve personal bests in this distance. Although she didn’t set a personal record, sophomore Lena Hamvas finished with a time of 19:07.72, just half of a second away her personal record, which was good for a 49th place finish. Sophomore Sammy Woller also established a personal record and placed 52nd in the race at 19:09.45. Senior Christina Kivi also came in with a personal record time of 19:30.02, placing her at 85th. Kylen Hughes was 164th (20:20.40), followed by freshman Iliana Garcia with her own personal record time of 20:34.27 at 178th. Sophomore Caley Cranford also set a personal record by posting a 22:04.47.
The men’s race started off badly for the Bears when some of the runners went down in a massive pileup just 250 meters into the race. Despite this, the Bears were still able to establish a team record for the 8K distance. For the third-straight time, the Bears were led by sophomore Sony Prosper, who finished with a time of 25:24.42, finishing 87th. Prosper almost broke a school record by coming just less than half a second away. Senior Marc Kushinka (143rd) beat his own personal record, trimming off a whopping 16 seconds (25:59.18). Kushinka was then followed by three junior teammates Chris Svidesskis (26:00.77), Andrew Weems (26:27.50) and Jacob Law (26:28.87), who finished 146th, 177th and 179th respectively. Also notching personal records were sophomore Kasib Abdullah (27:18.68), freshman Josh Pendley (27:06.76) and freshman Jeff Law (27:46.61).
Both teams look to keep up their impressive displays in their next race at the Royal XC Challenge in Charlotte, N.C. on Oct. 14.