The Wilkes men’s and women’s cross country seasons concluded in the NCAA Mid-East Regional’s at Dickinson College on Nov. 14. The men’s team would finish 36th out of 52 teams, and the women’s team 41st out of 50 teams that participated in the event.
Nick Wadas entered his eighth season of coaching both the men’s and women’s teams with not only team goals, but also personal player goals.
“I wanted to match or beat the teams’ 2014 finish at the MAC championship,” he explains. “And we accomplished this: The men’s team finished 8th out of 17 teams, and the women’s team 12th out of 17 teams. I also had personal goals for everyone to run their personal best, and everyone either achieved this goal or came very close to it.”
Senior Martin Tolbert, who is seen by many as the leader of the men’s team, was not going to let the team fall backwards after three years of consistent building. He wanted to push the team and at the same time set goals for himself in his last year on the course.
“I was hoping to run faster than my personal best which was 28 minutes and 45 seconds. I was able to achieve that with a time of 28 minutes and 24 seconds,” he said. “And for the team overall we were looking to finish higher in the MAC championship and the NCAA regional championship which we did as well. And most importantly finishing the season injury free was a big feat.”
The women’s cross country team was one that had a tough road in front of it before the season started. Senior Tracey Hilker was the only senior of the group that was filled with underclassmen. Although she had to deal with a heavy class load, Hilker would still be there for the team and help them grow.
“I expected the team to push each other just like last year, and keep each other motivated to put in the long miles each week,” she said. “The team has always been a dependable group in the past, but this year I was impressed with the support given as a group not only during meets but on a personal level.”
The women’s team is also like the men’s program. They have consistently improved year after year. They broke a substantial amount of not only personal best times, but also school program best times. Freshman Morgan Jones burst on to the scene this year, and would collect several school records during what was only her first year on the course.
One bright spot for both teams this season was the Alvernia Invitational. Morgan Jones finished first in the event and the women’s team finished second overall at the event. Sophomore Jordan Lindley also finished first for the men’s side, and the team placed first in the event, giving the men’s team its best finish since 2010.
Next year may be a struggle for both the programs as they lose seniors, but Coach Wadas looks to keep the success going.
“I keep our goals to better ourselves and increase our finishes in the MAC championships. We will lose some seniors to graduation and will have some smaller teams,” he said. “We are going to have to bring in some recruits for both teams, and the men’s team will be a little more freshman heavy than in years past.”
As next year approaches, the Wilkes cross country teams will start all over again. Although they are going to lose many strong performers, they will reload and as the underclassmen move up they will instill the hard work and dedication that they learned from the previous leaders of the teams.