WKU cross country teams raising the bar this season

Junior David Mokone runs in the 2012 Sun Belt Cross Country Championship at Kereiakes Park on Oct. 27, 2012.

Alexus Richardson

After a successful season last year, the WKU men’s and women’s cross country teams will open the 2014-2015 season on Friday in Nashville at Percy Warner Park for the second consecutive year in the Belmont Opener.

WKU ended its 2013-2014 season at the NCAA Regionals, where the men’s team placed 23rd overall and the Lady Topper squad finished 25th.

According to Assistant Coach Taylor Miller, a successful season last year has raised expectations for the 2014-2015 campaign.

“We go into every season wanting to win the championship, even Conference USA,” Miller said. “We went to the Sun Belt and we won indoor and outdoor. We want to win the triple crown and we’re lucky to have that as a goal.”

Miller said the team has a large number of freshmen this season, which has led to the runners creating a new bond in an effort to build upon what they started last season.

“Our freshman are learning very quickly how important it is to be here,” Miller said.

He said it’s been exciting to see everyone rally around with a common goal, have a good experience and build on what they did last year.

With a lot of new faces on the roster, junior Katie Lever said that the team’s biggest goal right now is evaluating its options.

“We’re seeing what everyone’s good at because there’s so many different types of runners out there. We have a lot of girls from different backgrounds, so it’s interesting to see what everyone’s strength and weaknesses are,” Lever said.

Lever, along with junior Louise Hall-Stirling and senior David Mokone, are WKU’s top returning runners. Makone finished 5th overall in last year’s Belmont Opener while Stirling finished 24th overall.

Miller said the team has been practicing twice a day, doing different exercises to stay healthy. They plan to start off light, building strength for the upcoming season.

Miller believes the team can handle a bit more volume this year, including longer runs and longer workout days with the team being stronger than previous years.

Following the Belmont Opener, the men’s and women’s teams will compete in the Commodore Classic, Greater Louisville Classic and Evansville Invitational before the C-USA Championships in Denton, Texas on Nov. 1.