The Lincoln College men’s and women’s cross country look to build off of last season’s successes but there are some very big shoes to fill, especially on the women’s side. The women’s team was the 2015-16 NJCAA Region 24 team champions and also boasted four All-Region athletes, including the Region 24 champion Mallory Tharp. Three of the top five from last year’s squad have moved on, leaving a place for others to step in.
The women return All-Region performer Sala Hanne (East Moline, IL), Deanna Anglin (Chicago, IL), who is looking to build off of her Most Improved Performer award from last season, and Iradukunda Josephine (Rock Island, IL) who is coming into this season looking stronger than her freshman year. With the departure of Tharp and other, the women’s team will need some other runners to step up to fill the gaps. Freshman Kayla Rodgers (Riverdale, IL) and Jasmine Brooks (Joliet, IL) look to be the top contenders and are running strong early on.
On the men’s side, the team finished 2nd in the 2015-16 NJCAA Region 24 championship. The men will be without two All-Region performers from last year’s squad but will return Austin Webster (East Moline, IL), who finished 2nd in the Region 24 meet in 2014, and Spencer Mellow (Palm Coast, FL), who was also an All-Region performer in 2015-16. The men’s team will look to Brayden Batterton (Delavan, IL) to continue to build from last year’s successes.
Head coach Brian Herron said of his group, “We have a talented group of freshmen that will have to adapt to racing the 8k. Eduardo Lopez (Rantoul, IL) and Zach Podunajec (Lincoln, IL) look to be the leading candidates at this time to run in the top 5. Juwan Riggins (Chicago, IL), Nick Smith (Chicago, IL), and Christain Raymond (Cahokia, IL) are talented middle distance runners. If they can continue to improve, the men’s team could also have some quality in depth as well.”
The first meet will be September 2nd at EIU in Charleston, IL. The women’s race starts at 4:45pm with the men at 5:15pm. Both teams will be challenged with a very difficult schedule as most of the meets are hosted by NCAA DI teams. Coach Herron added, “We have a very tough schedule but that is what we need to get us ready for our Region Meet and hopefully Nationals. I think we are right in the mix for a Region title but we really have to continue to improve. I know we have the talent to make a deep run but it will depend on how much they want it and how quickly many of them adapt to running longer races.”