MASON CITY — The Southwestern cross country teams opened the season at the 2013 Region XI time trial here Saturday on the North Iowa Area Community College campus.
The men put four runners in the top 30 and finished fourth as a team behind two teams that finished in the top 25 at the national meet last season. Iowa Central did not run a team at the national meet last year, but did have the individual national champion.
“I’m ecstatic about their finish,” head coach Bill Huntington said about the top-four team finish. “Based on the level, fourth is nothing to sneeze at. You’re looking at legitimately two schools above us fighting it out for top in the national and the other for top 10. One thing I really felt good about was having four guys in the top 30. That was big.”
Freshman Aaron Ward of State Center led the Spartans on the 5k course, crossing the line in 18:08 in 16th place. Sophomore Rayvonne Brown followed placed 24th with a time of 18:42.
“Aaron went out and had a controlled start,” Huntington said. “He went from probably about 40th to 18th. Our top five guys all moved up a lot over the last mile. Rayvonne really made a huge commitment this summer to running. He put in the miles over the summer. I don’t think they (Ward and Brown) separated until about a mile left.”
Freshmen Ben Friederichs, Cassidy Warson and Chasen Selsor rounded out the scoring for the men in 28th, 30th and 34th respectively.
For the women, freshman Hannah Murphy of Macksburg led the squad to a sixth place finish. She placed 18th in 24:29.
Freshman Sarah McKeon of Underwood was also in the top 30, placing 29th overall in 27:01.
“This is a very, very young team and extremely inexperienced,” Huntington said about the women’s team. “We have a couple of girls that this is their second year in the sport and one girls it’s her first year. We’re a work in progress.
“That said, we ran very well,” he continued. “Hannah Murphy was outstanding finishing in the top 25. Sarah, that was one of the strongest last half miles I’ve seen in a while.”
Also scoring for the Spartans was Elizabeth Hurley-Boyd, Kristin Klocksiem and Brei Theisen.
The Spartans are back in action Friday evening in Indianola at the Bill Buxton Invitational. Women are slated to start at 5:30 p.m. and the men follow.
Region XI Time Trial
Team standings — 1. Iowa Central 22, 2. NIACC 53, 3. Iowa Western 56, 4. Southwestern 132, 5. Triton Alumni 147, 6. Iowa Lakes 213, 7. Scott 234, 8. Indian Hills 243.
Southwestern (132) — 16. Aaron Ward, 18:08.5; 24. Rayvonne Brown, 18:42.4; 28. Ben Friederichs, 19:02.9; 30. Cassidy Warson, 19:09.6; 34. Chasen Selsor, 19:44.4; 37. Ovan Garcia, 20:06.8; 38. Joe Bierl, 20:20.5.
Team standings — 1. Iowa Central 17, 2. Iowa Western 65, 3. NIACC 80, 4. DMACC 131, 5. Scott 160, 6. Southwestern 168, 7. Iowa Lakes 169, 8. Indian Hills 207.
Southwestern (168) — 18. Hannah Murphy, 24:29.4; 29. Sarah McKeon, 27:01.2; 39. Libby Hurley-Boyd, 29:18.8; 40. Kristin Klocksiem, 29:34.3; 42. Brei Theisen, 30:51.9; 43. Aspen Riley, 33:33.7; 45. Katie Stevens, 37:21.5.
CNA sports editor Scott Vicker contributed to this report.