FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Meets won’t get any tougher than Saturday for the Barton women’s cross country team.
The Cougars traveled to Arkansas to compete in the Chili Pepper Festival, hosted by the University of Arkansas.
The competition saw 50 teams and 436 runners – many of them NCAA Division I schools. But the Cougars didn’t shy away.
Barton, ranked No. 8 in the NJCAA, finished 18th in the 33-team field in the collegiate division. There were an additional 17 teams in the university division.
“I am unbelievably proud of this group,” Barton coach Dave Schenek said. “Their full-time distance coach left three weeks ago and they continue to run hard and get better.
“The Chile Pepper Festival is a great race and I think that our team showed great potential in the way they competed there. I am excited to see our progression throughout the rest of this cross country season.”
Schenek is coaching the team after Parker Cowles, a Barton assistant for the track team heading the cross country team left for his alma mater at the Air Force Academy for a similar position.
As usual, Lydia Mato led the way for the Cougars, taking 34th overall among the more than 400 runners.
The team competition was split into a collegiate and a university level but the individuals all ran together. Mato finished ninth among runners in the collegiate division.
Her time over the 5K course was 17:23.41. A pair of Arkansas Razorbacks went 1-2 with the winning time of 16:07.18. The top collegiate time was 16:34.02 by Kelsey Bruce of Dallas Baptist University.
Mato, the defending NJCAA champion, beat all other community college runners while Barton as a team lost only to Iowa Central among other two-year schools.
Freshman Asha Douglas was 78th in the collegiate division at 18:58.21. She placed 177th overall.
Holly Pierce took two minutes off her time at the same event last year finishing 106th in the division with a time of 19:29.74.
Mariah Stein just missed breaking the 20-minute barrier with a 20:57.34 for 168th in the division. Julee McAtee ran a 22:14.66 for 197th in the division and Emilykate Hopson-Boyd was 205th with a 23:04.23.
Barton is back on the course Saturday for a much friendlier Fort Hays State Tiger Open in Victoria at 9 a.m.