One would be hard pressed to final a more loaded Region this cross
country season than Region 24, with seven of the eight men’s and
women’s teams ranked in the top 25 of their division and four of the
eight ranked in the top 10.
Vincennes University is hosting this year’s NJCAA Regional at South
Knox High School this Saturday, Oct. 31 at 12 p.m. eastern. The event
will include the men’s and women’s cross country teams from VU,
Heartland, Kaskaskia and Danville Area.
The Trailblazers are up against a very good Heartland XC program,
whose men’s and women’s teams are currently ranked No. 5 and No. 2
respectively and swept both Heartland CC Invitationals earlier this
season, with VU coming in second both times.
“Heartland is a really strong D-II team, their coach has done a
tremendous job with them and they’ve been consistent this year,”
Vincennes Cross Country coach Chris Gafner said.
The Trailblazer women’s team is currently ranked No. 9 in Division I
and will likely be led again by the sophomore tandem of Meagan Moreno
and Kyra Young, who came away with the one-two finish both times the
Blazers traveled to Heartland this season.
Moreno’s first-place finish on October 9 earned her NJCAA DI Women’s
Cross Country Runner of the Week honors.
“Up front our women’s team has done really well, with Meagan and Kyra
being the top two Region 24 runners at every event this season, so
they’ve done really well,” coach Gafner said. “We’ve dealt with some
injuries on our women’s team, with Kaylee Lange not able to compete
until our last event, so I think she’s going to help us a lot.”
VU’s women’s team will also be looking for a strong race out of
freshmen Jacy Collins and Kaitlyn Koening.
“Jacy Collins has been improving this season and I think she’s
prepared to race this weekend,” Gafner added. “So I think we’ll have a
chance to do well on the women’s side. Heartland is a tough team, but
we’re definitely making improvements from early on in the year.”
The Vincennes men’s team comes into Regionals ranked No. 17, led by
sophomores Nick Vogt and Joshua Hodge and freshmen Trenton Faulkner
and Walter Tanui.
“We’ve had a few injuries on the men’s side too this year. Nick Vogt
twisted his knee before the last Heartland meet, so he’s trying to get
healthy again and Walter Tanui has missed some time this year as
well,” coach Gafner said. “Some of our younger guys are really
starting to come on lately. I think Trenton Faulkner, Gavyn Mundt and
Joshua Hodge are starting all getting stronger as the season goes on.”
The ultimate goal for Vincennes though is not just to be competitive
at the Regional level, but to be competitive at Nationals coming up in November.
“The main thing for us is getting healthy at this point. We’re a
little banged up, but we have a chance to keep improving heading into
Nationals and hopefully we’ll start that with a good performance at
Regionals,” Gafner said.
“Our main goal every year is what can we do at Nationals and how we
can perform there and everything before that is a prelude,” Gafner
added. “We do put a little bit of focus on the Region meet, because
runners can get Region honors and it’s just nice to be able to compete
well at that meet, but for us, the main objective is always Nationals.”
The Trailblazers will look to use Saturday’s Regional as a way to
learn and improve heading into the 2020 NJCAA Division I Men’s &
Women’s Cross Country Championships held in Fort Dodge, Iowa on Nov.
14 with the Half-Marathon Nationals to follow on Tuesday, Nov. 17.