by Cole Sheeks, Sports Editor
Follow him at @ColeSheeks
The Bluejays men’s and women’s cross country teams kicked off their season with the Earlybird Invite at Eldridge Park in Elmhurst on Sept. 1. According to junior men’s runner Juan Castaneda, the early season meet was intended to serve as more of a measuring stick than anything else.
“Personally, I think I did okay, [but] this is not a race that we want to really worry about placement. It’s more to see where we’re at,” said Castaneda, who finished the men’s 6k race in 20:31.5, leading the Bluejays and finishing in 29th place overall.
Women’s coach Jordan Bartolazzi agreed, saying that, “It matters, because it’s a cross country meet … but it doesn’t matter.” Bartolazzi also added that the results of the meet leave him excited about his team moving forward.
“It was a lot of fun. I was pleasantly surprised with how well our girls did. I’m really proud of them and as a coach, I know that we have a real bright future ahead of us,” said Bartolazzi. “I think Alaina Nebel, our number one runner, she did what I expected her to do. She put herself in the race, she ran strong. I think she’s got a lot of improvement left to go, but she did exactly what I hoped she would do.”
Nebel, who is a junior, finished the women’s 4k race in 15:26.3, leading her team and placing sixth overall in the meet.
Bartolazzi went on to mention that, “[Isabella] Wolke, our freshman who got second overall on our team, that was a very pleasant surprise. I think she’s got a big career ahead of her.” Wolke placed 19th overall with a time of 16:19.9.
“I’ve been telling them literally since day one that every single day we’re progressing to the conference meet and then the regional meet,” said Bartolazzi. “So this was an awesome start to get some momentum going. Kinda see where we race against some competition.”
Castaneda reflected on the past few seasons for the men’s team.
“We’ve had a pretty small team. A lot of younger guys, but right now we’re gonna have some more seniors,” said Castaneda. “We’re still kinda growing, cause we need to recruit a little bit more, but the few guys that we do have on the team, they just need to improve a little bit more.”
Both the men’s and women’s team are headed to Rock Island, Illinois for Augustana College’s Brissman-Lundeen Invite on Sept. 22 at 4 p.m.