The APSU men’s and women’s cross-country teams wrapped up their abbreviated seasons on March 1 after hosting the OVC Championships at Weakley Park.
In a typical season, the Governors would have come into their championship races having already competing in five or six meets. Due to the pandemic and inclement weather, the Governors had only seen competitive action a single time.
APSU’s sole race came on Jan. 24 when both shorthanded cross-country teams — featuring just four racers each — traveled to Nashville, Tenn. to participate in the Belmont Opener.
In the season’s inaugural race, Sara Martin shattered her personal best, finishing with a time of 19:25.74 and placed a team-best 36th overall.
Martin continued to build on her impressive junior campaign by seeing a 43-spot improvement when compared to last season’s championship race.
After finishing 74th in the 2019 OVC championship, Martin paced the Govs and, for the second-straight time, was the first to cross the finish line for APSU. She finished 31st overall with a time of 21:08 in her five-kilometer race.
“It has been really awesome,” Martin said. “It has been really crazy, honestly. Coach [Sarah-Emily] Woodward and coach [Valerie] Brown and just my teammates; I had a really rough sophomore year. The sophomore slump was really a thing for me.
“I really thought about quitting multiple times and honestly, I didn’t just because my teammates Molly [Howard] and [Mikaela Smith] were just like, ‘You’re going to get through it, you’re going to get through it, everything.’ Finally getting to show what I have been doing in practice all year has been such a blessing and I am super happy about it.”
Governors’ head coach Valerie Brown commended Martin for her effort throughout the season, stating that the junior’s exponential growth stems from a high work ethic.
“She is a different athlete,” Brown said. “She is one who honestly competes against herself at practice. When you have a student-athlete who is not afraid to go out hard, not afraid to die in a workout or the last rep and putting in the effort on the first rep, I think you get what you see today. I am really excited about watching Sara progress as we move forward. She is just competitive within herself outside of being motivated by her coaches.”
Junior runner Molly Howard was the next Gov to finish, placing 60th overall with a time of 22:50. Behind Howard, freshman Mikayla Filkins posted a time of 23:29 and came in 64th for the women. Directly behind Filkins was senior Alura Endres (23:38, 65th).
Mikaela Smith capped off her junior campaign with a 69th place finish at 24:44, followed by junior Larin Harr (25:20, 71st) and senior Keleah Shell (25:20, 72nd).
As a team, the Governors finished 11th in the competition.
The men were led by senior runner Joseph Redman who finished 64th in his eight-kilometer race with a time of 32:59.2.
Staying in a pack throughout the race, the men’s other six racers finished within six places of Redman. Stone Norris concluded his sophomore season with a 65th place finish after posting a time of 33:20.8. Two places behind Norris were freshmen Ezell Pearson (35:24.3, 65th), Robert Fitzgerald (35.51.5, 69th) and Robert Mullen (36:10.2, 70th).
While the team placed 10th, Brown was pleased with the result she got from her men on the muddy course.
“We were excited that they had an opportunity to compete under the circumstances,” Brown said. “They are very similar to our women in that they have not had a lot of opportunities to race, so overall today was about getting out and giving 100% effort. So we are extremely excited and happy to get those guys out here.
“We’re young and were missing one of our top guys [senior Thomas Porter], so I think it was a little harder on our younger guys to step up in tough racing conditions, but they really executed as much as we’d like to see today.”
While the men look forward to a more traditional season next fall, the women turn their sights towards the 2021 outdoor track and field season that is set to begin on March 19 in Carbondale, Ill. at the Saluki Invite.