KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo will achieve another first Saturday, when its men's and women's cross country teams compete in their first meet.
The Cougars will take the field in the Grace College Invitation, Winona Lake. The women's race begins at 10 a.m., followed by the men at 10:45 a.m. Awards are at 11:30 a.m.
Sophomore Sandra Beech said it's exciting to be part of a first-year team.
"I like that we are not only competing, but we are making history and setting the standard for future teams," she said.
Jeremy Gilman, a junior, said the team appreciates the support it has received on campus.
"I think people are excited that we have this new team, and they're interested in how we do this season," he said. "I get positive comments from people who have seen us running on campus and in the community."
Coach Jason VanAlstine said the team is ready after months of training. Practices officially began August 1, but team captains Hannah Ault and Cody Phelps organized informal practices in June and July.
"We're doing something for the first time for our school," VanAlstine said. "We really want to go out and do our best, and hopefully at the end, our times match up with the other teams, who have more experience."
His goal for Saturday is for the teams to gain experience running at the college level. Phelps previously ran at DePaul University and is the only team member who has participated in cross country at the college-level.
"After this weekend, they'll have a better understanding of what it's like to be a college runner. Four of our seven women have never been on a cross country team. Our experience level is all over the board. Running in our first meet will allow us to set some goals for the rest of the season."
He is pleased with his team's progress and attitudes during this first season.
"I couldn't ask for a better group to be in a first team," he said. "They're just excited to be on the team, and they want to go out and represent our school in the best way possible."
Chancellor Michael Harris is proud of the team, and looks forward to a great first season.
"This is another historic first for IU Kokomo, at a time of great accomplishment," Harris said. "Adding another sport to our campus is really exciting. These student athletes have worked so hard. I am proud of them and we're all rooting for them."
The team has run six days a week since August 1, preparing for the distance. Women's races are 5K, or a little more than 3 miles. Men's races are 8K, or about five miles.
VanAlstine encouraged Cougar fans to come cheer for the team at any of the meets, especially the October 6 event at Indiana Wesleyan University, which is the closest to campus.
"We would really like to get fans out there to see how hard we've been working," he said.
The men's team includes freshman Jon Flory (Logansport), sophomores Cody Phelps (Peru) and Javier Vasquez (Frankfort); juniors Cody Young (Kokomo), Jeremy Gilman (Kokomo) Mitch Padfield (Greentown), and Nathan Courter (Greentown); and senior Sam Williamson (Logansport).
The women's team includes freshmen Amy McCauley (Greentown), Kelsey Hosler (Logansport), and Liz White (Greentown); sophomores Hannah Ault (Kokomo), and Sandra Beech (Tampa, Fla.); junior Meggan Adcock (Bunker Hill); and senior Kasey High (Kokomo).
The remaining meet schedule is September 14, Indiana Intercollegiate Invitational at Indiana State University; October 6, Indiana Wesleyan University Invitational; October 12, Wilmington College Invitational; and October 20, Great Lakes Invitational at Aquinas College.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.