On Tuesday, all of the hard work that the Purdue women’s cross country team and coaching staff has put in so far this season finally paid off and garnered recognition on a national level.
The team was ranked 30th in the latest NCAA Division I Cross Country National Coaches’ Poll, marking the first time that the team has ever claimed a spot in the poll.
“Any time that your peers rank you as one of the better teams in the country, from week to week, it tells you that you’re doing something right, that the program is moving in the right direction,” said head coach Lonnie Greene. “(Assistant coach Jeff) Kent is doing an excellent job in really turning this program into a force within the Big Ten. He’s done a great job with motivating them and getting the kids to believe in themselves. I’m excited about the future of this program, about what this means for us. And when you land the top 30 in the country, the easier it is for us to execute the job.”
The team earned its spot in the rank due in part to winning the season-opening Crusader Open, followed by a third place finish at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown. Due to the team’s third place finish in the highly competitive event, they earned votes in the coaches’ poll for the first time since 2004.
The team won the Notre Dame Invitational a week later, finishing ahead of multiple top-30 teams in the country. This achievement would foreshadow the team’s performance in last weekend’s race, in which the Boilers finished ninth, beating three ranked teams and another that was receiving votes.
As a result of this achievement, the Boilermakers were bumped into the rankings for the first time in school history. Greene attributes the rank to the progress that Kent has made with the team since becoming the assistant coach last year.
“Kent has shown a purpose to the young people,” said Greene. “They understand what it takes and what is required to run at the national level, and I think that’s because he has made that pretty plain to them in a very excellent way. Not everybody in my profession in the world at a collegiate level can do that in getting the mission across and making it clear as to what you expect from student athletes, and I think he’s done that.”
As a result of Kent’s successes, the team has been filled with a new-found energy that Greene believes will eventually lead to the team earning a top rank in the poll.
“Right now, he’s got us all excited in the program,” Greene said. “He’s opened some eyes around the country, and I think that’s because he put the mission out there to the young people and he hasn’t deviated from that since the beginning. And we’re seeing results and I think we’ll continue to see results.”