By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer
After their first two meets of the season, Baylor cross country is looking strong with the men and women’s teams finishing in the top four in both meets with a total of 12 top-15 individual finishes, four of those being in the top five. Head coach David Barnett has suggested before that the team is only going to get better as the season continues.
“We still haven’t put together our whole top five yet,” Barnett said. “When we put together our whole team – when it matters – we’ll have a really good result.”
Senior Ellie Friesen has placed the highest within the women’s team so far this season, coming in fourth in her first race at Baylor. Transferring from South Dakota State University, Friesen is in between being a veteran and a freshman all over again. She said she uses her experience from her former school as well as being a new runner at Baylor to help her be a leader on the team and connect with everyone better.
“I feel like it’s really helped me connect with the freshmen,” Friesen said. “Although I have the maturity from my undergrad, I feel like having everything be so new has really helped me bring them along and bring unity within the team. I really enjoy being a part of the different groups on the team. It has brought a common ground and really a trust in each other that it is a new experience, but we trust in what coach Barnett is telling us. We’re buying into it and the freshmen girls have done a great job of doing that as well.”
Going into their first meet, Friesen’s goal was a top-10 finish, which she accomplished. She said it was good to see what points of the race she needs to work at, specifically the middle of the race, so she doesn’t rely too much on her kick toward the end. Friesen said she is very confident in herself and the team, believing that the team can continue to finish in top spots as the season continues.
Senior Ryan Hodge said he is also confident in the team but is determined to better himself to help the team. Despite finishing fifth in his season debut, Hodge said he wasn’t the most pleased with his performance. He said he believes he could have finished the race better and will work on his ending kick to be ready for bigger races in the future.
“I think that’s definitely one thing I have in the back of my head,” Hodge said. “Especially come November where conference and regionals are important, you want to not have points come down at the end and be out-kicked. In workouts, it really comes down to the end of the workout just being focused on not totally ‘you just died in pain, but let’s keep our form together, let’s envision the end of the race, and know the pain that’s going to come and for sure stay after.’”
Both Friesen and Hodge said they have been very happy with the way the freshmen have handled themselves in and out of races. They have come in and surprised a lot of people with their maturity and the way they’ve competed in each race. Combined with a new head coach in Barnett, as well as the current vets to help ease transitions, the future is bright for Baylor cross country.
“I’m feeling really good,” Hodge said. “We have such an awesome group of freshmen, we’ve been really impressed with them. Lots of us didn’t expect it, you normally don’t come in expecting freshmen to contribute right away, especially in an 8K. It’s just such a difference from high school, but I think we have probably two freshmen that will be in our top five, and definitely in our top seven. So that’s something we’ve been pleasantly surprised with. As far as the team goes we just really have to stay healthy.”
“As far as the team, I thought they did great,” Friesen said. “We only brought seven women and four of them were freshmen so half of our roster was freshmen and they just handled it with complete maturity and composure.”