OREM, Utah - A sign of a good cross team is the ability to improve on its times from one year to the next. This year the Utah Valley State cross country team did just that.
Since taking over the cross country program just over a year ago, Wolverine coach Scott Houle has attempted to run his team in the same meets each year to monitor the improvement of times.
By seasons end, Houle was more than pleased with the improvement of each runner.
-This team was by far faster on both sides,- Houle said. -I am really happy with the improvement from this year to last. With such a young team they call came and adapted well to the college races. Our older kids really stepped up and showed leadership.-
One of the biggest improvements in time came in the Division I Independent championship meet when senior Michael Vick ran three minutes and 39 seconds faster this year than last year on the same course in Corpus Christi, Texas. In that same meet Peter Holm improved his time by a minute and 10 seconds and Ryan Gurr improved his time by a minute.
-Ryan Gurr improved over last year,- Houle said. -We knew he would do that. But it is nice to see someone who works that hard to continue to improve.-
While Gurr, Holm and Vick all showed great improvement, it was juniors Mark Lott and Joe Bendoski who were the top male runners for the Wolverines all season.
Bendoski finished fourth at the four-mile BYU Autumn Classic (20.31.5) and second at the five mile Montana State Bobcat Invite (24.46).
Meanwhile, Lott ended the year strong as he finished ninth at the 5.28 mile Independent Championships (25.30.08). Lott also finished in the top 10 in races at SUU and Montana State.
Houle added that freshman Jacob Buhler also had a solid season.
-We really didn-t know where he would fit in,- Houle said. -He ended up running third for us in every race.-
Next year Lott and Bendoski return for their senior seasons as a Wolverine.
On the girls- side, a lineup filled with inexperience turned out to be a very solid group of runners by seasons end.
Freshman Kim Rowberry led a balanced group of female runners through out the season. Rowberry finished second at the SUU Color Country Meet by running the 2.66 mile race in 17 minutes and 10 seconds. She was also named Independent Female Runner of the Week early in the season. She was the second Wolverine runner to cross the finish line at the Independent Championships.
Another freshman who performed well was Karinne Bentley. She was the top runner for the Wolverines in the BYU Autumn Classic.
-The freshman came in and were a huge part for us,- Houle said. -They were very competitive, ran well and matured really fast. They give us a bright future.-
Kirsten Barney was the lone returning runner for the 2004 team and she had a solid year, finishing 9 th at the SUU meet.
-She was consistent and healthy for us all year,- Houle said.
Transfers Bekah Poppinga and Tricia Lennberg also stepped in and gave the Wolverines added depth. Poppinga was the top runner at the Independent Championships. She also finished sixth at the SUU Invitational.
-They gave us some maturity we didn-t think we were going to have,- Houle said on his two transfers.
Next year looks to be even better for the Wolverine cross country program as Houle returns every girl and loses only three male runners.