Cold temperatures and 20 mile per hour winds plagued the cross country team in Iowa City, Iowa, for the Big Ten Cross Country Championships.
But there were two major bright spots for assistant cross country and track and field coach Jeff Kent.
“(Freshman) Kendall Hacker was the highlight for us on the women’s side from an individual standpoint — coming out and leading the team as our No. 1 runner,” Kent said.
He continued in regards to the men’s team, “(Junior) Matt McClintock continued to lead up front for us. He finished third overall and tied his personal best from last year. We ended up finishing ninth on the men’s side, and we’re a lot better than we ran today, but that’s the fun part is knowing we have great things ahead.”
Looking at last year’s teams who made the trip to the Big Ten Championships, six of the men’s nine runners were new and there were five new runners for the women. That, along with the obstacles presented by the weather, hindered the men’s team as they finished ninth overall. The women’s team, however, finished eighth, which was better than what Kent expected.
“I think the weather either worked against you or it worked for you, it was just whoever made up their minds to do the latter,” Kent said. “We did a really good job of beating our expectations on the women’s side. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Hacker, a freshman from California who wasn’t expected to be the team’s frontrunner, said the efforts put forth by her and her teammates were realized Sunday, adding that it was simply a good day for her.
“It means all the hard work we’ve put in has paid off, and all of my teammates have been right there with me,” Hacker said. “Today was just a day where I happened to lead the team.”
Hacker’s words jive with those preached by Kent all season.
“One thing I’ve stressed to both the men and the women all year is the need for interchangeable parts. If somebody has an off day, there needs to be someone there to fill that spot,” Kent said. “I think the women did a fantastic job of doing that, as did the men. We’re pretty pleased moving forward.”
McClintock, on the other hand, is Purdue’s best runner and finished third overall for the men’s competition. Despite his success, however, he still wished his team had placed better overall.
“It was nice to be able to make the top three and make it onto the podium again, would have liked a win today, but with the way the race played out, we weren’t able to do that,” McClintock said.
The cross country team’s next meet will be at 1 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the Great Lakes NCAA Regional in Madison, Wis.