By Cameron Blair
Both of Eastern’s cross country teams made their mark on the national scene Sunday with top-30 finishes at the 2007 Pre-Nationals held in Terra Haute, Ind.Senior All-American Jacob Korir led the way for the men, finishing second overall and breaking the previous course record with a time of 23:00.6. Korir finished just behind Liberty’s Josh Macdougal, who won with a time of 22:56.4.
Eastern finished 21st in the field of 40 teams in the 8K Blue race. The Colonels defeated several schools from top conferences including Mississippi State, Kansas and Georgia Tech.
“Exposure to these great teams will hopefully make us better,” said Head Coach Rick Erdmann.
Besides Korir, Eastern had only one other runner place in the top 25. Junior Joseph Maina finished 21st overall with a time of 23:47.
“Maina ran extremely well for us,” Erdmann said. “He made some great strides out there.”
Erdmann praised the efforts of his top two runners.
“Our top two guys can compete with any team in the United States,” Erdmann said.
Rounding out the field for the Colonels were sophomore Elkana Kurgat (168th), senior Jacob Fortney (180th) and junior Christopher Rengifo (182nd).
The large dropoff after the Colonels top two runners seems to be a cause of concern for Erdmann.
“Our guys from three on down need to run a lot better,” Erdmann said. “They are not running near their potential.”
Erdmann said the men need to improve their conditioning and mental toughness to reach their full potential in the upcoming OVC championships.
On the women’s side, the Colonels finished the meet in 28th place out of 38 teams in the 6K White Race.
Senior Katy Ankrom led the way for Eastern. Ankrom finished 28th overall with a time of 20:55.
“Ankrom really ran a great race for us,” Erdmann said.
Following Ankrom was junior Alli McMaster, who finished 127th with a time of 22:03. Junior Barbara Phelan (156th), senior Carrie Crawford (190th) and junior Maria Doerger (222nd) rounded out the field for the Colonels.
Despite the lower finish, Erdmann was pleased with the way the women ran.
“We showed a lot of toughness,” Erdmann said. “And there was improvement from some of the girls out there.”
Eastern’s women also placed above some top flight competition in the meet. The Colonels paced higher than teams such as Cal, Indiana and Cincinnati.
However, Erdmann also said he feels the women have room for improvement before the OVC championships.
“We need to work on getting closer together,” Erdmann said. “There are big gaps between some of our runners.”
Both of Eastern’s cross country teams will be back in action Oct. 27 at the OVC Championships in Birmingham, Ala.