Dragon men head to nationals

by Stevie Larson

larsonst@mnstate.edu

For the second year in a row, the MSUM men’s cross country team is heading to the national tournament, this time thanks to their fifth place finish at the regional tournament.

The Dragons were led by junior Brady Speicher, who finished 17th in the 10K race with a time of 31:10.81. Redshirt freshman Josh Young was the second highest finisher for the Dragons, posting a time of 31:27.57, which was good for 25th place. Speicher and Young were named to the all-region team by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

“It’s nice to get the recognition on paper,” head coach Ryan Milner said. “It’s nice for them to get recognition for the hard work that they put in, but rankings don’t define us.”

MSUM also had some runners who narrowly missed the all-region honors.

“We had a couple on the doorstep, like Cody Christ, who missed being all-region by one spot,” Milner said. “But we knew that we could have anywhere from two to five people make all-region,” he added.

Freshman Joshua Ernst was 71st for MSUM with a time of 32:28.37, while sophomore Jay Biwer was 131st in 34:04.75. Junior Brandon Selbig took 159th in 35:42.92.

The Dragons got the final spot in the national tournament with their fifth place finish, with just a one point cushion over sixth-placed Pittsburg State.

“That was the expectation, that we would put ourselves in the situation to do that again,” Milner said regarding their second consecutive trip to the national competition.

The team lost some of last year’s leaders, but they’ve left spots for others to fill.

“Josh Young, Josh Ernst and Tyler Hennon, who’s been with the program for four years, all really stepped up for us and led the team,” Milner said. “We are only losing Hennon, so next year we expect to be in the same position as we are this year.”

The coach said drawing from the experience of last year’s national competition will take some stress out of competing this year.

“We expect to run our best and do better than people expect us to do,” Milner said. “That is always our goal at competitions.”

On the women’s side, junior Makenzie Smith finished 11th in the 6K race, which helped the team to an 11th place finish, though they did not make the national tournament. Smith was also the only member of the women’s team to be named all-region.

“The women, one through seven, ran great,” Milner said. “There’s not a person in that group that didn’t run a personal best.”

Freshman Marissa Carlson was 45th in 22:34.76, while senior Emily Mammenga was 49th in 22:37.89. Freshman Alicia Swenson was 91st in 23:31.61, while sophomore Mindy Kraft was 109th in 23:53.09. Freshman Samantha Swenson was 116th in 24:05.22, and senior Elli Beige was 153 in 24:49.42.

The national tournament takes place Nov. 21 in Joplin, on the same course the regional tournament was on.

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