Cross country sets personal bests in race

On Saturday, Sept. 29, both the Mercer men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to Louisville, K.Y. for the Greater Louisville Classic. Both teams set personal bests despite the wet and tough course at the E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park.
The event, which is the largest collegiate tournament in the country this year and the site of the NCAA Championships this season, featured over 500 combined men’s and women’s runners. Both teams competed in the “Gold Race.” This would be the first year that the women competed on the top level and only the second year for men. They raced against some of the top cross-country programs from around the country.
Although the Mercer women finished 27th in the tournament and the men placed 29th, those positions rank the Bears as one of the top cross country teams in the country.
 In the latest USTFCCCA Division I South Regional poll, the Mercer men moved up a spot and are now ranked No. 13. This remains the first time in head coach Ryan Bailey’s career, and Mercer’s history for that matter, that either team has held onto a regional ranking throughout the fall season.
Once again, Senior Kacie Niemann had the best finish for either squad in the event, taking 80th place, setting another Mercer record and a personal best with a 5K time of 17:53.26. In the Mercer record book, Niemann now holds eight of the top ten finishes all-time, and was the top Atlantic Sun finisher in the race. Niemann commented on the course and her race.
“It was my home course, and knowing every inch of it really helps even if race conditions are less than ideal. I also had friends and family there to push me along when I wanted to give up.”
Along with Niemann, teammate Katlyn Will is adding her name to the Mercer record books. Will finished with a time of 18:10.62 in the meet, which qualified as the fourth fastest time ever for a Mercer runner. She placed 119th overall in the race. Niemann spoke very highly of teammate and training partner, Will.
“It is unbelievably wonderful to have a training partner in Katlyn this year. When workouts seem impossible or I don’t have the mental strength to run like I need to, she is there to drag the best possible performance out of me. I just hope I’m reciprocating sufficiently in return.”
 Freshman Lukas Steinheber set the pace for the Mercer men. He finished in 130th with an 8K time of 25:32.55. He has been one of the top runners for coach Bailey this season and like the girls, his efforts this weekend added him to the Mercer record books as fourth place all-time and has the fastest time put up this season for the 8K race.
The next top finisher for the Bears was senior Jacob Law with a time of 26:02.50, leading the team to the fourth fastest average time ever for the program.
 The next match up for both Mercer cross country teams will be in two weeks in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. for the Will Wilson Citadel Invitational on Oct. 13.