The Prairie Fire cross country team was more than ready for last Saturday’s Illinois College Cross Country Invitational: the women’s team finished in second place out of seven, while the men’s team placed third, also out of seven teams.
The performance included three Knox runners in the Top 10 and eight additions to the All-Time Top 25 list.
Senior Gabe Moreno won his second 8K of the season for the Prairie Fire, finishing with a career best time of 25:55.96, which is sixth on the All-Time Top 25 Performance List and the all-time Individuals by Time List.
Sophomore Brian Cole also added a career best time of 27:20.68, good enough for 24th of the All-Time Top 25 individuals.
Said Moreno of the team, “While there is a whole spectrum of differences between teams from year to year, perhaps the most important difference in this year’s team is an attitude shift. There’s been a struggle to overcome old stereotypes in years past, but this year, there’s more of an attitude of, ‘We’re Knox Cross Country — how good do we dare to be?’ Instead of a limiting attitude, this is explorative and liberating. There’s nothing more a runner could hope for than an atmosphere of exploration and liberation.”
The Prairie Fire women put up equally impressive performances, as sophomore Elizabeth Reyes, the school record holder of three of the top five 6K times in Knox history, set the third fastest time of 24:20.71 on the all-time performance list. Freshman Aly Eastman finished 12th overall at 25:31.48, placing her 24th on the all time performance list. Other top 25 performers included sophomore Grace Neubauer and senior Carli Bogolub.
Moreno, who has seen the cross country team mature for the last four years, said of the program, “What’s been the most challenging is helping the running program develop into a program that facilitates other runners like myself. My freshman year, I was definitely an outlier. However, through working closely with the coaching staff, helping draw recruits and using past successes as launching pads, the program has developed to a point where when a runner sets high goals and works hard to achieve them, she or he can excel.”
The team has the next two weeks free of competition so they can prepare for the Midwest Conference Championships at Grinnell on Nov. 2.
“The most important thing for myself and our success is to make sure we continue to enjoy running,” Moreno said. “That’s a kind of rule I like to apply to everything — find enjoyment in whatever I do. In that context, the team helps me find that enjoyment, and keeps me afloat. I love this team. They make it that much easier to do what I do, and do it well.”