WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Indiana University Kokomo men’s and women’s cross country teams got their inaugural season underway as they hit the course in the 2nd Annual Grace Invitational Cross Country meet at Grace College on Sep. 8.

“This was a historic day for Indiana University Kokomo and a memorable day for the athletes, who represented the school admirably. They showed a lot of enthusiasm and determination in their first meet of the season,” said first year head Coach Jason VanAlstine. “This was a completely new experience for many of the runners, with three of the five women having never competed in a cross country meet before today and with all of the men making the jump from the five kilometer high school distance to the eight kilometer college distance.”

The Cougar women were led by Northwestern High School graduate Hannah Ault, who finished in 20th place with a time of 21:50 for the 5K race. The Cougar women finished in sixth place of the seven teams that competed while Indiana University East did not officially place because they did not field a complete team.

“I was especially nervous with this being my first race since high school,” said Ault. “But once the race started I felt awesome to be running again. Some parts of the race got tough, but I kept pushing myself. It was a great feeling realizing that I reached my goal.”

Ault was joined by freshman Kelsey Hosler (23:58), Sandy Beech (24:07), Amy McCauley (25:22), and Kasey High (29:07).

“I am really proud of the way the women raced today. They faced some really tough competition, but there was never a point in the race where any of them eased up even a little bit,” said Coach VanAlstine after the race. “Amy McCauley really had a great day out there, dropping 3 minutes from her previous best time.”

Kelsey Hosler and Coach VanAlstine noted and appreciated that many parents and other supporters made the trip to Grace College to watch the Indiana University Kokomo Cross Country teams make history in their inaugural meet.

“I think that for this being the first year of cross country at IUK we are really becoming a close team and make an effort to support and encourage each other at practice,” said freshman Kelsey Hosler after running in the historic first meet.

After cheering on the Cougar women, the Cougar men followed in the Men’s 8K race. Javier Vasquez was the first finiser for IU Kokomo, speeding through the course with a time of 29:56 for 32nd place. The Cougar men finished seventh of the seven teams that competed.

“I felt a mix of emotions standing at the starting line with this being my first race and more importantly IU Kokomo’s historic first race,” said Vasquez. “I definitely felt a mix of anxiety, adrenaline and pride in running for the Cougars. It felt amazing crossing the finish line with an IU Kokomo jersey on and I’m ready to do it again.”

“Javier hasn’t been practicing as long as some of the other guys, so it is exciting to see him go out there and put down a solid time this early in the season,” said VanAlstine. “He could do some really special things by the end of the year as he rounds into shape and gets used to the 8K distance.”

Other Cougar finishers were Cody Young (31:10), Sam Williamson (31:28), Jon Flory (32:24), and Nathan Courter (33:49).

“The men have really been coming together as a team since day one. They met often during the summer to train together and walked in the door on August 1st ready to work,” said Coach VanAlstine. “They really want to see each other succeed and work as a team at practice to bring out the best in each other. I really feel like they will be ready to roll when their training tapers and they go into some of the meets later in the season with fresh legs.”

NAIA No. 23 Huntington University captured the women’s title with a rare perfect score of 15 for the meet by taking the top seven spots in the race. On the men’s side, Goshen won a closely contested meet against Huntington with runners from those two teams taking seven of the top 10 spots.

“This meet gave us a great opportunity to see where we are at early in the season and puts us in position to continue to improve as the season progresses,” said Coach VanAlstine.

(Courtesy of Indiana University Kokomo)

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