Cross country teams back in Nashville for Commodore Classic

Andrew Weigel

The WKU men’s and women’s cross country teams return to Nashville, Tenn., this weekend to compete in the Commodore Classic.

The meet, hosted by Vanderbilt University, will be held at Percy Warner Park on Saturday.

The teams know what to expect from the course, having run the same course at Percy Warner Park at the Belmont Opener two weeks before.

The difference this week, though, will be the strength of competition. Several top teams from the Southeast Region will be in attendance, including Vanderbilt, Eastern Kentucky University and Alabama.  Some of the best non-Bowl Championship Series schools will be in attendance as well, Coach Erik Jenkins said.

“This week, the level of competition will be much higher,” Jenkins said. “These are the programs we aspire to compete with. It’s an opportunity for us to compete against good teams and test ourselves.”

The Lady Toppers will look to improve on their balanced finish at the Belmont Opener where all five runners placed in the top 50.

Women’s distance Assistant Coach Taylor Miller said Saturday’s meet is a good way for the team to get ready for the Sun Belt Conference Championships in November.

She said she told her to team to keep training through meets and testing their limits — Miller knows with such a young team, meets like this are a learning experience for her runners.

“I expect them to keep improving,” Miller said. “There is no one in the Sun Belt that we can’t run with.”

As for finding a leader on her young team, Miller said there is no one who stands out just yet. Without any veterans, the Lady Toppers depend on each other for leadership.

“They are all very good friends,” Miller said. “They hold each other to such high standards, and kind of lead each other in that way.”

The Toppers will be led by junior David Mokone, who received Sun Belt Conference Male Runner of the Week honors after his most recent performance in Nashville. Mokone finished fifth at the Belmont Opener.

Sophomore Aaron Stevens, the team’s second finisher at Belmont, is expected to be a top finisher for the Toppers as well on Saturday.

Jenkins said he expects Stevens to be a big part of the WKU effort moving forward.

“Aaron had a great summer and has kept working hard,” Jenkins said. “He has taken himself out of his comfort zone, and that’s how you succeed in this game.”