(MSU Billings release)
SPEARFISH, S.D. – The men’s and women’s cross country teams at Montana State University Billings each ran to a second place finish on a frosty morning at the Gage McSpadden Invitational Friday morning. The Yellowjackets finished behind Black Hills State, who won the event but were ahead of South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in the three team field.
Nikki Aiken finished in fourth place in the women’s 5K race in a time of 20:07.18. Her top five spot broke up BHSU’s chance to grab a sweep of the top eight. Also turning in a top-10 time was Sophomore Ruth Chepsat. Chepsat came in ninth, just seven seconds behind Aiken at 20:35.20.
“It was nice to see Nikki finish in the top five and break up Black Hills State’s chance to get a perfect score,” said head coach Jon Woehl. “With Ruth in the mix, we also had two top ten finishers which is really great to see. I knew going in that Black Hills state was going to be the favorite to run away with it but the women ran really well for us.”
Sierra Durbin posted a 17th place finish in 23:04.20 for MSUB, finishing third on the team. Then it was Maddy Terwilliger in 20th (23:39.93), Rachel Hiner in 21st (23.52.12), and Miranda Livingston in 24th (25.11.84). Tori Moore was the race winner for Black Hills State, running five kilometers in 18:24.50 and BHSU finished with 17 total points. Montana State Billings had an average time of 22:15.73 and got down to 56 points. South Dakota Mines had 65 total points and finished last.
“Our goal coming in was to make sure we didn’t slow down in the middle of the race and then accelerate in the last mile and I felt we accomplished that,” said Woehl. “For the men, we emphasized the fourth mile and for the women it was about keeping the consistency in mile two.“
For the men, Black Hills State swept the top five positions, but Ivan Colmenero finished sixth for MSUB and crossed the line in 27:46.54. Ronald Venema also turned in a strong performance and finished eighth at 27:57.11. Colmenero and Venema’s 8K times closely mirrored their times in the first race of the season, but had a much more uphill race course to contend with in Spearfish, marking measurable improvement since the end of August.
Carson Jessop continued to quicken his pace from previous meets and finished in the top ten for the first time this fall in 10th place with a time of 28:10.35. Jessop began his cross country season feeling under the weather but the now healthy Jessop is showing signs of getting back to one-hundred percent with good finishes at both the Montana State Invitational and the Gage McSpadden Invitational.
Mark Hovland competed in his first race of 2018 for the Yellowjackets and posted a respectable 28:35.50 time in 12th place. Ase Ackerman was 17th (29:07.61) while fellow freshman Drake Henson came in 20th (29:20.24) for MSUB.
“The men made a good step forward in today’s race,” said Woehl. “Mark ran well in his first race of the year and he has shown the potential to be a leader of the pack for us as we go forward. He’s going to keep getting faster now that he’s back running healthy and running well. Ase and a couple of the other guys could be right there too. It’s been encouraging to see the gap from Ivan and the other top five men close to within one minute, which helps the entire team finish better.”
Black Hills State finished with the lowest possible score, 15 while Montana State Billings was behind them at 50 points. South Dakota Mines rounded out the group with 69 points.
Both teams ran on a hilly surface at Spearfish Canyon Country Club and the routes varied from past years, making it a difficult race to prepare for. This time around, the race was held on a criterium style course on the back nine holes of the golf course. In addition to the new race course, the Yellowjackets had just six days to rest and train for the competition after participating in the Montana State Invitational on September 15.
“The course was challenging and runners were either going uphill or downhill the entire race. I think the Griak will be similar to Spearfish but this is was definitely one of the toughest courses we have to run this year.”
THE BUZZ: Carson Jessop was named St. Vincent Healthcare men’s cross country player of the day for earning his first top ten individual finish of 2018. Nikki Aiken had her first top five finish of the season in fourth to earn St. Vincent Healthcare women’s cross country player of the day for the Yellowjackets.
NEXT UP: Both MSUB cross country teams will participate in the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, September 29. The race will take place in Minneapolis, Minnesota at Les Bolstad Golf Course and will pit the ‘Jackets against a plethora of Division I competition. The University of Minnesota will be hosts of the meet. The Yellowjackets last competed at the Roy Griak Invitational in 2015. There, the women’s team placed 28th out of 35 teams while the men finished 11th in a field of 38.