Young Lady Topper runners impress coaching staff

Andrew Weigel

Following a day of record-breaking performances at the Great Louisville Classic, a nucleus of young runners demonstrated the potential for future WKU women’s cross country team successes.

Four sophomore runners — Lindsey Hinken, Katie Lever, Taylor Carlin and Baylee Shofner — posted career-best performances during the 5K race in the Louisville meet on Oct. 5 at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park. Hinken, Lever and Carlin all finished in the top-100 bracket.

Coach Erik Jenkins said he was encouraged by the Lady Toppers’ performance.

“They competed against national talent and several highly-ranked runners,” he said. “For them to have a career day like that is a positive.”

Assistant coach Taylor Miller worked with WKU’s distance runners and said she’s excited about the progress the team has made.

“We’re still in the heat of training,” Miller said. “We’re working hard to get better and it’s exciting. The best is yet to come.”

It was unclear at the beginning of the season who would lead the young Lady Toppers squad. As the team dashes into the latter half of its season, however, junior Jodi Miller has donned that mantle.

“Jodi has emerged as the captain of the team,” coach Miller said. “She rallies the troops. As a new coach, I rely on her a lot.”

The balance of the team shows in the results — three different runners have finished in first place for the Lady Toppers in as many meets.

Coach Miller said the Lady Toppers’ biggest strength has been their ability to work together as a cohesive group. The coaches have stressed the importance of “running as a pack,” sticking together and running with the group instead of individually.

Working together as a group has never been difficult for the Lady Toppers, coach Miller said, because the teammates are also good friends and they push one another to get better.

“Our top-five runners are a very good training group, and they gain strength from that,” coach Miller said. “They depend on each other; their strength is in the pack.”

Coach Miller is happy with the work ethic of the team as a whole as well.

“They like to hurt, and that’s always a good thing in cross country,” she said. “They have exceeded my expectations, and continue to surprise me.”

The Lady Toppers will have one more rehearsal Saturday in Indiana during the Evansville Invitational before they charge into the Sun Belt Conference Cross Country Championships on Nov. 2.