If the object of cross country is as much about the journey as it is destination, then the 2010 season proved that the Knox College men’s and women’s teams are still on the path to improvement.
“My goals coming into the season were for both our men’s and women’s teams to improve upon their finish from last season,” first year head coach Dan Zierfuss said.
The Prairie Fire did just that, as the men’s team finished the year in seventh place in the Midwest Conference, after an eighth place finish in 2009. In 2008, the team finished in last place, and in 2007 they finished eighth.
The conference championship took place Oct. 30, and was hosted by Monmouth College. The race took place at Gibson Woods Golf Course in Monmouth, Ill.
“Individually I wanted our runners to improve upon their career times and with one meet remaining on the schedule, many have done so already,” Zierfuss said.
Led by strong performances from senior Ryan Maniscalco and freshman Gabe Moreno, the men’s team finished seventh out of ten—their best finish since 2003.
Moreno clocked in at 27:09 good for 30th place. Moreno, hampered by a nagging injury throughout the season, posted a time good enough for 14th place all-time for the program. Maniscalco, who came in 39th, finished at 27:30.
Maniscalco was followed by freshman Bobby Mueller in 55th place, sophomore Sean Choate in 60th, and senior Avi Segaloff in 69th.
“The conference overall this year had improved a lot, but we still competed with some very good cross country teams,” Choate said.
The women’s team, competing despite a slew of injuries, finished in 10th place out of ten teams at conference.
“Senior Chloe Bohm has been a key performer for us,” Zierfuss said. “Chloe is a talented runner and she brings a strong presence to meets and [we] can always count on her to be a competitor.”
Bohm finished the race at 26:09, just short of a top-50 finish. Freshman Yael Cody was next in line for the Prairie Fire, finishing in 98th at 29:44. She was followed by sophomore Zoey Kudla in 104th place.
Grinnell College won the men’s meet with ease, with their top five runners all finishing in the top eight. St. Norbert College took the women’s title in similarly dominant fashion, their top five runners all placing in the top nine.
And while the Prairie Fire still have one more race – NCAA Regionals at Augustana College on Nov. 13 – they are already looking towards a bright future. 12 of the 15 men’s runners will return, with Maniscalco, Segaloff, and senior Chris Bugajski graduating. The women’s side will lose their top runner, Bohm, and senior Helen Hapner, but will return the rest of the team and add a few runners who were abroad for fall term.
If Zierfuss can continue his strong recruiting, the Prairie Fire should only continue their improvement. Zierfuss is confident they can.
“I feel that our men’s program will be a top five conference team in the near future,” he said.
Zierfuss’ runners share a similar optimism, and an appreciation of his performance in his first year as head coach.
“Coach Zierfuss did an excellent job at preparing the team to compete and run hard,” Choate said. “The future looks great.”
As for the upcoming NCAA Regional competition hosted by Augustana College, the Prairie Fire will look to improve on their conference finish and end the season strong.
“We’re just trying to compete and run hard as we always do,” said senior Chris Bugajski. “We know that we’re all capable of doing something special.”