The Slippery Rock University men’s cross-country team placed 10th at the 19-team DII/DIII Challenge held in Kutztown, Pa on Saturday.
The team championship was won by the University of Mount Olive with 47 points. Other teams in the top five were Shippensburg University (67), the University of Lock Haven (70), Bloomsburg University (131) and Kutztown University (169). Slippery Rock finished with 304 points.
Head Coach John Papa said that this event helped Slippery Rock prepare for meets down the road.
“The main goal here was to get a look at Kutztown’s course, because we run our championships there on October 22nd,” Papa said. ” We needed to get an idea of what the rest of the conference is looking like. I thought we got what we went for.”
Slippery Rock was led by the surprising effort of freshman John Marenkovic, who placed 23rd and held The Rock’s best time with 27:02.00.
“[John’s] high school didn’t even have cross country, so he didn’t know what he was getting into.” Papa said. “He’s going to be one of the best freshmen in the conference. He’s got a lot of talent, he’s a hard worker and a smart runner. He will be in the conversation for freshman of the year.”
Sophomore Andrew Maxwell and junior Jeff Henderson were the other top performers for the Rock with 63rd and 65th place finishes, respectively. The 8,000 meter run was finished by Maxwell in 27:58.6, and Henderson finished in 28:04.0. Henderson was dealing with a tailbone issue, but coach Papa said after the meet that he’s going to be fine.
The top five finishers for Slippery Rock were rounded out by two more freshmen, Jared Nelson and Keegan Beard. Nelson finished 75th with a 28:24.1 time, and Beard was not far behind at 75th place and clocking in at 28:37.6.
Nathan Schultz and Josh Radar were the other two Rock runners, and placed 79th and 84th, respectively.
While the underclassmen runners were excited to get into competition, coach Papa was cautious about exerting themselves this early in the season.
“You only have so many significant performances. If you try to run your brains out every day at practice and every meet, your going to be shot in a month,” Papa said. “You have to run easy when you need to run easy. The younger guys like John [Marenkovic], need to be cautious of running too much. They think they run a little bit and good results happen that they will get better if they run a lot.”
Papa furthered his comments on how his style of coaching effects his players. “That’s the art of coaching distance runners, you can’t treat everybody the same. Some guys need more rest than others, and some guys need to work harder than others.”
Junior Jeremy Parsons, The Rock’s top runner, did not compete due to a rolled ankle.
“He did the right thing” Papa said. “Instead of aggravating it and turning it into a bigger issue, he rested it for a few days, now he is back and good to go.”
Slippery Rock runs again this week at the Lock Haven Invitational on Saturday.
Papa said of the meet this weekend “Lock Haven is a flat course. That doesn’t mean that its easy. Your still going to be tired and you’re still going to have to push.”