The Slippery Rock University men’s cross country team kicked off their season with a second place finish at the Daniel Walker Invitational last weekend, with five runners placing in the top 16 of the competition.
The only team to top the Rock and their 54 points was Edinboro, who took home first place with a final score of 16 points. No other teams scored less than 100 points.
Head coach John Papa was pleased with the start to the season, but knows that there is still a lot of work to be done if they want to be considered as one of the top teams in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference at the end of October.
“We have a lot of reason for optimism this season, but we definitely still have a long way to go before the end of the year,” Papa said.
Junior Travis Arrigoni was the first runner from the Rock to finish the 8,000-meter course, running it in 26:57 and taking fifth place overall.
Junior Michael Beegle was the second runner to cross the finish line for the Green and White, placing 10th and running 27:26.
Senior Alex Koksal finished the race in 27:37, slotting himself into 14th place.
Sophomore Jaron Martin and freshman Ryan Thompson rounded out the scorers for the Green and White, both finishing directly behind Koksal in 15th and 16th place, posting times of 27:39 and 27:45, respectively.
Koksal acknowledges that it is early in the season and the squad did not have their best outing, but he is still looking forward to what the season has in store.
“We had some very good showings from the freshmen and sophomores this weekend,” Koksal said. “They will help make this one of the deepest teams we’ve had in a long time.”
Beegle said that the team is making strides in the right direction.
“We had an alright start to the season on Friday,” Beegle said. “We have a lot of guys who are going to work together and improve significantly in the next few weeks in preparation for our big races. Great things are coming our way!”
Earlier in the week, the team was nationally ranked by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, earning a No. 31 rank among all NCAA Division II schools.
The next meet for the Green and White will be the Mack Cooper Classic which will be held on September 14 at 6 p.m. at the home course of Cooper’s Lake Campground.