Some schools are known for their football programs, others for basketball or volleyball. At Southwestern, though, there has been one sport that has dominated over all others even though it is not the most popular.
The Cross Country program has had immense success over the past few decades. Both the men’s and women’s teams have proven themselves not only in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, but at the national level too.
For the men, it is another year to continue making history. The team currently holds the record for most consecutive conference championships won in the nation. This year they shoot for their 30th straight. “We want to compete to the best of our ability,” said Jim Helmer, cross country head coach, “we also want to win the KCAC, qualify for nationals, and continue to be a nationally recognized program.” Helmer is entering his 32nd year as head cross country coach for Southwestern. He is highly respected by his players both as a coach and a person. “The man is a genius,” said Conner Drendel, elementary education sophomore, “he makes you want to run and gets you fired up. He sees the potential in every runner and you just trust him because you know he knows what he is doing.”
“In the two weeks I have been here, I’m very impressed with what he has done,” said Sydnee Nelson, bio chemistry freshman, “you get to realize how he has put together such a great team.” And a great team it is. The men’s team returns seniors Zack Conroy, business, Jimmy Bryant, education, and Tanner McNinch, biology. Kyle Lutgeharm, chemistry and bio chemistry, and Andrew Topham, biology make up the juniors on the team. Sophomore returners consist of Conner Drendel, elementary education, and Carrington Crum, elementary education. The new coming freshmen are Frank Adelman, biology, and Clint Kessler, undecided.
The women’s team has also been the team to beat for some time now. They have won 13 of the last 16 conference championships and are looking to continue that success this year. “I think we are doing a really good job right now,” said Nelson, “I think we have a really good chance this year of continuing to be a dominant team.”
Returning seniors on the team include Alyssa Carter, psychology, and Arely Smith, nursing. Mychala Money, Amy Pierson, nursing, Jordan Unruh, nursing, and Larrissa Vasquez, business are the juniors returning this year. Erica Dunigan, communications, Jennifer Hendrixson, nursing, and Kash Shuck, biology, are the sophomores and Esther Hoon, psychology and athletic training, and Sydnee Nelson, biology, make up the freshmen.
The teams performed well in their opening meet Saturday, Sept. 5 at the WSU Gold Classic. Both men’s and women’s placed 3rd out of six teams, only just finishing behind Kansas State and Wichita State. Andrew Topham finished with the best individual time out of the Southwestern competitors with a 19:05, and placed 5th in the meet. Amy Pierson’s time of 14:30 was good enough to earn her a 6th place finish in the women’s division. The next meet is on Friday, Sept. 11 at Friends University.
Clint Dick is a freshman majoring in Communications and can be contacted at Clinton.firstname.lastname@example.org