KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo will field its biggest and youngest cross country team ever, as its season kicks off today (August 31) at the Bluffton Invitational in Ohio.
Coach Jason VanAlstine anticipates a successful season, with the quality of returning runners, and the depth provided by larger numbers.
Two of our top three runners are back from last year,” he said. “Brittany Sloan made it to nationals last year, and she’s back and running well, coming off a strong spring track season. Ethan Dubbels is our top guy. He made a big jump last season, and just missed qualifying for nationals by five seconds, He’s back for his senior year, and he is glad to have another opportunity.”
The women’s team includes seven new runners out of 13, while the men’s team has nine of 15 new members. Having more runners means they have to compete with each other for spots at some meets — including the conference meet, which is a qualifier for NAIA nationals.
They’re pushing each other, and making each other better,” he said, adding that the larger roster is necessary with the team competing in track in the spring. It also gives him options for fielding athletes at meets.
There are some years you’re just one injury away from going from a great team to an average team,” he said. “I think we’re protected from that this year, by how deep we are.”
Sloan (Andrews/Northfield HS) and fellow senior Caitlin Eltzroth (North Manchester/Northfield HS) lead the women’s team. Returning members also include juniors Sierra Colvin (Marion/Eastbrook HS) and Taylor Coram (Kokomo/Kokomo HS), and sophomores Allison McMinn (Kokomo/Western HS) and Amanda Shinn (Amboy/Maconaquah HS).
They are joined by new members including junior Becca Adney (Godfrey, Illinois/Danville Area Community College), and freshmen Audrey Benefial (Tipton/Tipton HS), Sidney Berry (Kewanna/Caston HS), Caylene Cole (Anderson/Frankton HS), Lexi Jackson (Walton/Lewis Cass HS), Hailey Law (Mulberry/Clinton Prairie HS), and McKenna Moore (Walton/Lewis Cass HS).
On the men’s side, seniors Dubbels (Kokomo/Northwestern HS) and Jordan Fivecoate (Kokomo/IUPUI) return, along with sophomores Jeremy Jakes (Kokomo/Northwestern HS), Hunter Purtee (Kokomo/Western HS), Samuel Robinson (Marion/Mississinewa HS), and Adam Rood (Kokomo/Maconaquah HS).
New members include senior Kyle Chapman (Peru/Peru HS), sophomores James Wilkison (Amboy/Indiana Tech), Samuel Phillips (Tipton/Tipton HS), and Keyen Taulbee (Forest/Manchester University), and freshmen Carson Pocock (Fort Wayne/Bishop Dwenger HS), Logan Schmucker (New Haven/R. Nelson Snider HS), Jacob Kirchoff (Rushville/Rushville HS), Jacob Teuscher (Tipton/Tipton HS), and Tanner Boley (Kokomo/Taylor HS).
Teams will compete in seven meets, with the closest the Indiana Wesleyan University Twilight Invitational, set for 5 p.m. Friday, September 7, in Marion.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.