Young Hilltoppers get first experience at Belmont Opener

Sports graphic

Cameron Coyle

Seven of WKU’s 10 competing runners participated in their first collegiate race for WKU during Friday’s cross country season opener at Belmont.

The Lady Toppers finished in seventh place out of 10 teams, while the men’s team placed fifth out of eight teams.

Head coach Erik Jenkins said he was pleased with the results of the meet, especially considering the team’s youth.


“This is an enthusiastic group of young people,” Jenkins said. He added this is the youngest team he has had since being named the head coach in 2008.

“We want to go out and be competitive,” he said.

Jenkins said the team has scheduled more meets on shorter courses to help the roster get experience.

The Lady Toppers were led by freshman Heather Withlow who finished 22nd out of 67 with a time of 21 minutes, 29.19 seconds. Sophomore Morgan Kannapel came in 31st with a time of 22:43.41 while junior Brianna Wolken finished 33rd after running a 22:48.3.

Freshman Abby Luce ran a 25:30.99, finishing 44th. Aairiona Hayden-Ransom rounded out the squad with a time of 27:40.43 to finish 46th.

All five runners for the men’s team were freshmen making their cross country debuts. They were led by Matthew Wininger, who finished 20th out of 70 total runners with a time of 16:49.46. Dedrick Troxell finished 22nd, closely followed by Wininger at 16:57.94.

Luke Hoover came in 24th with a time of 17:05.32, Michael Sherman finished 28th at 17:09.84 and Emerson Wells rounded out the group with a time of 17:15.82, finishing 31st.

The Hilltoppers had the closest margin of time between their first and last runner to finish with just over 26 seconds in between Wininger and Wells. The only other squad with less than a minute between their first and final runners was Belmont, the first-place finishing team with just over 50 seconds between first and last runner.

WKU’s distance squads will travel to Tennessee again this weekend to compete in the Golden Eagle Invite, hosted by Tennessee Tech.

Reporter Cameron Coyle can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected].