Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fire burns inside OU runners

By Greg Mast/Herald Sports Editor | 8/12/2014

The fire burns deep inside the Ottawa University cross country runners.

The women return all but one of their top runners and the men want to atone for last season’s poor finish.

The fire burns deep inside the Ottawa University cross country runners.

The women return all but one of their top runners and the men want to atone for last season’s poor finish.

The Lady Braves finished second in the KCAC meet by a point to Kansas Wesleyan and qualified for nationals as a team.

“The returners are hungrier than ever,” 19-year Ottawa coach Kirk Wren said. “They want to prove some people wrong. A lot of people did not give them much credit. We need to keep that internal fire going.”

The women will have depth and quality runners.

“We will have 18 or 19 girls on the cross country team,” Wren said. “We have the quality and the quantity. We have three girls are coming back that are preseason all-conference runners.

“I have some freshmen that are super talented and super intelligent. They are neat, neat girls.”

The men return several runners that gained a lot of experience a year ago.

“The guys team returns multiple guys that are solid,” Wren said. “Last year at the conference meet, they let the nerves get the best of them.”

The women are led by senior Chelsea Fullerton, who is a five-time national qualifier and two-time school record holder in her career.

Wren said Fullerton is hungry to lead this team to a KCAC title and back to nationals at Rim Rock in Lawrence.

“Chelsea is a silent leader,” Wren said. “She sets the bar high. Everybody feeds off that.”

Seniors Janelle Bailey and Brittany Harrington also return with a bevy of experience.

Wren said those seniors are not only good athletes, but good students and leaders in several organizations on campus.

The men are led by Jeo Mendez, Cole Carlson, Evan Smith and Caleb Love.

The top recruit is freshman Christian Garcia from Great Bend.

“He is one of the top 4A runners in the state,” Wren said. “He will be a big asset.

“We did a good job on both men and women getting good 3A and 4A kids. They fit in the program academically. The come from winning programs. That helps when they come from good coaches.”

Wren said both teams are looking forward to the KCAC meet on Nov. 8 in Sterling.

“Nov. 8 is a long ways away, but it will be here before you know it,” he said. “If we can stay healthy, I think we can make some history. It could be a special year.

“The cross country teams should be good. We should have depth on both teams. Everybody is important on both teams. We will feed off that energy. They have a lot of positive peer influence.

“It should be a fairly fast course. We will be ready to go.”

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