Men’s cross country falls short in NCAA Championships

Andrew Pawling

The Florida Southern men’s cross-country team finished 30th overall in the Division II National Championship on Dec. 1 in Pittsburgh, Penn.

Conditions weren’t ideal for the Moccasin runners as temperatures were in the low 40s throughout the race, approximately 10 degrees colder than in the South Regional held in Lakeland on Nov. 17. The 10K course in Pittsburgh was muddy in addition to the cold temperatures.

As a group, the Moccasins finished with 814 team points and were led by sophomore Mitchell Kozik, who finished 150th out of the 261 runners competing.

Kozik had a time of 35:13.4 followed by senior Dean McGregor finishing at 35:31.3. Sophomore standout Mason Jones, who finished fifth in the South Regional, came in 189th with a race time of 35:51.7.

Michael Balseco (36:22.5) and Warren Grajalez (36:30.9) rounded out the top five for the Mocs, and finished in 212th and in 221st, respectively. Josh Wagner finished in 248th at 37:24.8 while Brian Martin finished in 260th place at 38:07.6.

Going into the NCAA Championships, the Mocs had hoped for better results overall. Jones had set a personal goal to make the top 40 individually while Wagner was shooting for a top 100 spot. Wagner and Jones both believed a top 20 team finish was possible.

With a core primarily consisting of sophomores, the Mocs look to have more opportunities to improve on their times and rankings as the team heads into the offseason.

“To get back to Nationals next year we are just going to continue to work hard and make sure we stay healthy,” Jones said. “We know our coach is going to give us the workouts necessary to run faster and if we do that we’ll be at Sacramento in 2019.”

The cross country National Championship was a part of the 10th annual DII Championships Festival.

The festival highlighted several fall sports that don’t necessarily receive national attention and gave those athletes an Olympic-style experience as several championship competitions in a relatively close proximity to one another.

At Florida Southern, a watch party was organized by sophomore Marissa Mengelkoch. The watch party was held in the Snake Pit for FSC students to watch their peers race in Pittsburgh.

“The best of the best compete at nationals and it was really exciting to see our boys make it all the way up there,” Mengelkoch said. “We just wanted to show our support and watch them go up against teams from all over the country.”

 

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