"There's no easing into this season," coach Kyle Walsh of the Indiana State cross country program said late Saturday morning at LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
Walsh spoke moments after the conclusion of the John McNichols Invitational which — because of the influence and esteem the late former Sycamore coach commands throughout the nation, not to mention the fact that the course is host to this season's national championship meet in November — brought some of the best runners in the world to compete against his Sycamores.
Top-ranked Northern Arizona, the two-time defending men's champion, cruised — literally — to victory in their race. Although Iowa State's Edwin Kurgat held off Stanford's Thomas Ratcliffe for the individual title, the next four runners were Lumberjacks who sped into the chute in a six-second burst and didn't appear to be breathing hard.
Individual winner Taylor Werner led her Arkansas team to a narrow victory in a women's race that included four teams — also Stanford, Washington and Michigan — in the top 10 of a consistently fluctuating poll.
If all those teams — plus Purdue, Indiana and Illinois and maybe a few others — reserved their rooms for the Nov. 23 weekend while they were here, it wasn't a presumptious act at all.
"Loaded competition," Walsh pointed out, "that we embrace and are excited to have."
The Sycamores had precautionary sit-outs of their probable top runners, Brooke Moore and Ryan Cash, so their team finishes were a little deceiving.
"The [ninth-place] women were the story of the day for us," Walsh said. "It shows our depth is a little better than I anticipated — four in the [18-minute range] . . . that's as good as we've ever started in quite a few years, and we'll have a really good front-runner [Moore] to go with that."
The men, Walsh added, had a similar situation.
"Our top four were very good," he said. "Put Ryan Cash in, and we're right where we needed to be . . . today we didn't exceed our goals, but at the same time we're right where we need to be." ISU competes next at Notre Dame's Joe Piane Invitational on Oct. 4.
This is also Rose-Hulman's year to host the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference meet at the Gibson course, so the best of the HCAC teams joined the Engineers in the competition too.
The results, particularly on the men's side, had to be pleasing to coach Geoff Wayton. The Rose men were barely behind DePauw but finished ahead of Wabash and their conference rivals, while the women trailed DePauw and Hanover but finished ahead of Franklin and Transylvania.
Men's results (8K)
Team scores — Northern Arizona 31, Stanford 51, Iowa State 66, Purdue 70, Indiana 165, Eastern Michigan 196, Illinois 211, IUPUI 285, Eastern Illinois 289, Central Arkansas 313, Indiana Wesleyan 315, Valparaiso 327, Indiana State 327, Northern Colorado 348, North Alabama 450, DePauw 486, Rose-Hulman 516, Wabash 529, Hanover 622, Franklin 624, Transylvania 639.
Top 10 — Edwin Kurgat (IoSt) 23:47, Thomas Ratcliffe (Stan) 23:51, Luis Grijalva (NA) 23:58, Theo Quax (NA) 24:03, Abdihamid Nur (NA) 24:04, Brodey Hasty (NA) 24:04, Alex Ostberg (Stan) 24:05, Jaret Carpenter (P) 24:15, Brody Smith (P) 24:15, Curt Eckstein (P) 24:15.
Indiana State — Nick Yeend 25:17, Noah Hufnagel 25:29, Isaac Bentz 25:51, Cale Kilian 26:27, Justin Niederhaus 27:46, Ben Payton 28:48.
Rose-Hulman — Matthew Stevenot 26:45, Evan Ammidown 27:19, Ben Gothard 27:21, Nolan Gross 27:39, Noah Heckenlively 27:43, Jonathan Timm 27:45, Nathan Ciriacks 27:52, Elliott Whiteside 28:27, John Sluys 28:33, Blake Storoe 28:59, Aaron Lannoy 29:10, Nathan Pryor 29:14, Aidan Woods 29:31, Nick Hall 29:55, Tim Wilson 30:04, Dave Seelye 30:10, Jake Untener 30:30, Dallas Spencer 31:15.
Team scores — Arkansas 49, Stanford 54, Washington 66, Michigan 75, Northern Arizona 112, Illinois 126, Purdue 214, Eastern Illinois 299, Indiana State 300, Central Arkansas 317, IUPUI 327, Indiana Wesleyan 373, North Alabama 382, Valparaiso 431, Hanover 463, DePauw 463, Rose-Hulman 546, Franklin 607, Transylvania 634, Stephens 663, Oakland City 680.
Top 10 — Taylor Werner (Ark) 16:24, Fiona O'Keeffe (Stan) 16:34, Katie Izzo (Ark) 16:39, Ericka VanderLende (Mich) 16:40, Melany Smart (Wash) 16:42, Ella Donaghu (Stan) 16:45, Devin Clark (Ark) 16:47, Katie Rainsberger (Wash) 16:50, Jessica Lawson (Stan) 16:51, Carina Viljoen (Ark) 16:55.
Illinois — Included Emma Wilson 17:31.
Indiana State — Jocelyn Quiles 18:04, Alli Workman 18:29, Michaela Ward 18:42, Tara Cassidy 18:59, Cami Hansen 19:56, Devon Zeck 19:57, Moriah McCormich 20:05, Emma Hayward 20:14, Margaret Falater 20:17, Michaella Burchett 20:35, Cassidy Bagby 20:42, Brooklyn Hey 20:51, Claire Collins 21:09, Riley Welch 21:22, Gabby Brown 21:52, Marissa Nicholas 23:14.
Rose-Hulman — Sarozjani Hunter 21:06, Rachel Shubella 21:11, Kaia Johnson 21:26, Madison Lindfelt 21:44, Patricia Giraldo 21:48, Taryn Perry 22:34, Abi Clayton 22:58, Haley Braker 22:59, Alexis Updike 25:15, Danielle Villa 26:21.