Cross country heads to Sun Belt Conference Championships

Andrew Weigel

The WKU men’s and women’s cross country teams have spent the past two weeks preparing to head to the Sun Belt Conference Cross Country Championships on Saturday in Troy, Ala.

Both teams are coming off their best performances of the year at the Evansville Invitational in Evansville on Oct. 19.

The Toppers are riding the momentum of their No. 2 overall team finish in Evansville, as well as the first-place individual finish captured by junior David Mokone.

Mokone’s efforts will be the key to the Toppers’ success in the conference title meet. He has led Topper runners in every meet this season, and coach Erik Jenkins will rely on him to be the catalyst for the young Toppers squad.

Jenkins said he has been preparing his team all year to be ready for the conference championships.

“We just want to be competitive and stay humble,” Jenkins said. “This is what we’ve been working toward all year. We organized a good schedule that culminated in Evansville, which had a field very similar to the one we’ll see Saturday.

“We’re going against some very good competition. Some of these teams are better than they’ve ever been.”

Sophomore Aaron Stevens has showed his potential as well this year, finishing second for the Toppers in all four meets. On a young team, Stevens has separated himself as a future leader for the Toppers.

“I’m very happy with the improvement Aaron Stevens has made throughout the season,” Jenkins said after the meet in Evansville.

The Lady Toppers are looking to keep their success going as well, after capturing top honors as a team at the Evansville Invitational.

Sophomore Lindsey Hinken, who finished second in the last meet and claimed Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week honors for her performance, is expected to lead the Lady Toppers in the Conference Championships.

She said her goal for the Conference Championships is to run a new personal-best time and earn All-Sun Belt Conference Honors, as well as help her team capture a Conference Championship.

Hinken said the Lady Toppers aren’t sure what to expect from the unfamiliar course in Troy and that the competition will be very close.

“There are several teams who can score within a few points of each other,” Hinken said. “Every point is going to matter.”

Sophomore Katie Lever has been another standout runner this season for the Lady Toppers, along with junior Jodi Miller and sophomores Louise Hill-Stirling and Taylor Carlin.

Jenkins has been especially pleased with the performances of Hinken and Lever, praising their success at the Evansville Invitational.

“We got some very fine performances out of Lindsey and Katie in Evansville, and the rest of the team competed as well,” Jenkins said.

This late in the season, the teams are trying to stay healthy while training hard to be in peak physical condition. Jenkins said the staff has done a good job of “tapering them back over the last seven to eight days” in order to keep from wearing down their bodies.

“At this point, the hard work to get us in the best shape possible has already been done,” Hinken said.

Jenkins said his teams have worked all season with the title weekend in mind.

“This is what you train all year for — to compete and win a championship,” Jenkins said.