Cross Country begins training in preparation for the September 2nd season opener meeting

Cross Country begins training in preparation for the September 2nd season opener meeting

By Brad Laux, MSU Athletic Media Relations

Training starts this week for the coach Clay Dixon‘s Morehead State cross country and track and field teams. Twelve newcomers have joined 30 returners as the Eagles prepare to open 2022-23 with the Eastern Kentucky Dual on Friday, Sept. 2.

Due to a quirk in NCAA rules, track and field athletes began training Monday, and cross-country runners began Wednesday. With Dixon’s entire roster competing on the track, all of the Eagles have started their preseason.

Sophomores and juniors make up the majority of the two rosters, so the rosters are still in the growth phase. There is only one senior cross-country runner, and the team has regained the services of two people who either missed all or most of it last year. Only four athletes did not return.

A quintet of sophomores, some with two-year experience, headline the returning women: Laikin Tarlton (19:04.10 5KPR), Lucy Singleton (19:06.40 5KPR), Isabella Kopher (19:31.10 5KPR), Cloe Copas (19:44.30 5Kpr) and Megan Busch (20:02.10 5KPR); during junior Kyle Embry (26:03.70 8K pr), second year Peyton Fairchild (26:16.30 8K PR), Junior Jarret Forest (26:31.80 8K pr) and in the second year Justin Bland (26:37.30 8K pr), the top male runners for 2022 are back.

A handful of returnees and several freshmen will challenge the aforementioned five women who scored the most points for the team last fall. Junior Maria Alice Thornburg (19:44.40 5km PR) contributed early last year and ended up missing the entire track season through injury but is cleared to resume competition. Junior Riliegh Owens (19:50.20 5K pr) and sophomore Lili Gray (21:38.10 5K pr) are back as well. Owens scored points for the squad in several encounters, while Gray found more success in the spring.

Redshirt student Hannah Hostettler (22:09.00 5K PR) and redshirt freshman Christiana Lytl suspended the cross-country campaign but ran in both winter and spring. Red shirt sophomore Jennifer Ramirez joined the team mid-track season and will run cross country for the first time this fall. newcomers Christiane Brittian (Bardstown, Kentucky/Nelson County HS), Natalie Curry (Union, Ky./Ryle, Julia Douglas (Bulverde, Texas/Smithson Valley HS), Hope Harris (Ashland, Kentucky/Ashland Blazer HS), Kaylyn Holman (Crothersville, Indiana/Crothersville HS), Emily Lowe (Louisville, Kentucky/male HS), Casey Skags (Bardstown, Kentucky/Thomas Nelson HS) and AbbyTaylor (Lebanon, Ohio/Lebanon HS) are newcomers running this fall. Five other team members are sprinters and will start competing during the indoor track season.

“We’re bringing back a really strong group and adding 10 new girls. We had a strong core last year and I think there’s a really strong cast of athletes that can fill in the remaining spots,” said Dixon. “Laikin, Lucy and Isabella each led us in two of our six races last year. Megan and Cloe are last year’s top five girls also returning. There are a whole lot of other players with potential to chime in (and) support. AbbyTaylor and Christiana (Brittian) have solid ‘PR’s from high school. From what I’ve heard they could be in our top five by the end of the year.”

Among the boys, the best news is the return of Redshirt as a sophomore Garret Watts (24:51.40 8K pr), who was MSU’s top performer as a freshman but missed all of last year with the exception of the inaugural cross-country meet. Sixth year student Josh Grogan (26:25.00 8K pr) served as a Graduate Assistant Coach in 2021-22 but is returning to the team with a year of unused eligibility. His brother, sophomore Wes Grogan (28:16.40 8K pr), along with classmates Toby Koch (27:49.20 8Kpr) and Jacob Vogelpohl (28:18.23 8k PR), have all had solid track seasons and Dixon is hoping they can build on what they accomplished this spring.

Five different men led the 2021 team at cross country meetings. Watts, Embry and Forrest all return. Red shirt sophomore Liam Dale (27:36.20 8k PR) was fourth after starting the roster at the Evansville Invitational. the other runner, Michael Dunagantransfer.

second grader Kyler Stewart (26:57.30 8K pr) and Ethan Vance (28:16.90 8K pr) both scored points for the team last fall and are back again. Junior Justin Chavez (27:19.10 8K pr), who finished in the team’s top seven runners at each of his races in 2021, plus a sophomore Sam Lucas (29:50.10 8KPR), Austin Montgomery (27:52.60 8K pr) and Alex Murray (32:42.70 8K pr) Everyone returns hoping to keep improving. True newbie Gavin Rock (Ashland, Ky./Boyd County HS) and redshirt freshman Micah Gray (Cincinnati, Ohio/Eastern Kentucky Univ.) are the new additions to the team. Gray sat out last year but was a member of the Kent State track and field team in 2020-21.

“The boys are an older group of mostly upper class people. I’m lucky to have a healthy Garrett’s back. If everyone else makes progress, we should have an improved men’s team,” Dixon said. “Jacob had a good track season last year and I hope that translates into success this fall, as do Toby and Wes. Then we have Kyle, Peyton and Jarret who are usually good cross country runners and hopefully they (will) keep moving forward. Returning with an extra year due to Covid is Josh Grogan. When he stopped running (in the team) in Spring 2021 he was in our top 7. We hope he can return to that level and be a supportive player.”

At practice this week, Dixon tries to see the athletes’ condition levels.

“(For) the distance runners (Wednesday) is the first test to see where we are. It’s going to be a tempo run. Some will run three to four miles, others six to eight. It’s a fitness gauge. (This Distances are ) my best way of determining that,” he said. “There will be a Big Hill practice next week. This is the next crucial factor. This is the season when everything is new (again). In the summer, some kids have to work a little, some slack off, and some just stay the same. There are many different factors. I’ve heard some rumors about a few (promising runners) to watch out for.

“(For) the track we don’t rush anything. Two extra steps in August won’t make us the best athletes, experiment with new things and have fun,” he continued. “There’s no stress with racing now (since the first meeting at the track is several months away will be held). If you’re feeling good, that’s great, but if you’re not, let’s not make it any worse.”

The men and women will open their seasons on September 2nd at the Eastern Kentucky Dual. It will be the third year in a row that the Eagles have started the year going head-to-head against their arch-rivals. The teams will then take two weeks off before heading to East Lansing, Michigan for the Michigan State Spartan Invitational on September 16. The Greater Louisville Invitational follows on October 1, with Bowling Green’s Falcon Invitational serving as the final tune. for the Ohio Valley Conference Championship. The first race takes place on October 14th, the league meeting on October 29th. For the second year in a row, the season ends with the NCAA Southeast Regional at Louisville’s EP “Tom” Sawyer Park. This competition is scheduled for November 11th.

“eKU will be a rust remover. Some may not run if they’re not ready, but it will be a good opportunity to get those legs up and running again. We’re going to some familiar places with eKU and Louisville, but “I’m excited I’m really looking forward to going to Bowling Green and Michigan State. We have never been there. It will be a chance to do something different. It’s always fun to travel with the team. There was a lot of excitement in the team about (these meet),” Dixon said. “I’ve never been to Cookeville for the conference championship meeting. This course is an absolute mystery. We’re going to see a handful of teams multiple times, but at Bowling Green and Michigan State we’re going to see some new teams the other OVC teams, most have Louisville on their schedule, but other than that it’s going to be different than the past few years and I’m excited looking forward to seeing some new faces.”

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