(Editor's note: MSUB media release)
MISSOULA - In a race that featured five season debuts across both Montana State University Billings cross country teams, three runners had top-10 finishes, the men’s team placed third and the women’s team placed seventh at the Montana Open on Friday.
Ase Ackerman and Kailee Stoppel led both teams in Missoula. Ackerman powered through the 7-kilometer course in 20:52.5, good for fourth place. In the women’s 5K, Stoppel used a strong kick in the last 200 meters to finish fifth with a 17:36.6. Carson Jessop, who made his season debut, rounded out MSUB’s top 10 finishers by placing seventh with a 21:22.3.
All three runners went toe-to-toe with Division I competitors and gained more confidence in their training, according to MSUB head coach Jonathan Woehl.
“He’s been doing the right things,” Woehl said of Ackerman’s race. “One of the things that I like about running is that if you put the time in, you’re going to see results no matter where you are as an athlete. You can always improve. Ase has been putting the time in, running very well and gaining more confidence with each week and each meet. Today he found out a little more about himself: That he could run with those D1 guys.”
Stoppel, who was coming off her best collegiate finish the previous week, hung with the front pack of Division I and strong NAIA competitors and had a strong kick. Woehl said Friday’s performance was further proof of her abilities and the work she has put in this season.
“This week, it was nice for her and everyone else to run in this bigger field with more people to compete against,” Woehl said. “For Kailee, it proved that last week’s second-place finish wasn’t a fluke. She’s worked really hard and she’s going to have solid, competitive results from here on out.”
“For her finish, she got down that last straightaway, put the hammer down and passed several people, which is really good to see,” Woehl added.
Ally Whitmer turned in another solid performance as MSUB’s number two women’s runner; she finished in 28th with a 19:14.4. Running in her first race since high school, Kendra Woods was the Yellowjackets’ third runner with a 19:36.8 performance, in which she stuck with a crowded middle pack throughout a hilly middle section of the course.
“Kendra can be and will be a very good runner,” Woehl said. “It’ll take some time to figure out the training and
becoming confident in her abilities, but I’m hopeful because she does have upperclassmen that she can look up to in order figure everything out.”
The MSUB’s men’s team, meanwhile, saw Jessop, Logan Straus and Bryant Edgerton make their season debuts – all while Peiro ran in his longest collegiate cross country race to date. MSUB has yet to run a full 8K this season, yet the men’s team will gradually ramp up from a 6K to an 8K in its first three meets.
“On the men’s side, we have to keep working at,” Woehl said. ”For the men’s side, it was nice to have all of them racing for sure. I really think Jordi is capable of improving each meet.”