Nate Perry, CMUChippewas.com
ROCHESTER, Mich. – With frontline runners from both teams resting, the Central Michigan and Oakland coaches got a chance to focus on evaluating their secondary runners over the 3K (women) and 4K (men) “short course” distances in Friday’s cross country dual meet.
The women’s race featured six Chippewa runners to Oakland’s eight.
Three freshmen led the way for CMU, with Paula Merino crossing the finish line first in 11 minutes, 27 seconds. Morgan Merlino and Julianna Brown were next, finishing seven seconds apart at 12:09 and 12:16, respectively.
Oakland’s Ashley Burr won the race with a time of 10:30.8.
“It was nice for (the freshmen) and everyone to come out and just go hard and not have to worry about the longer distance,” CMU women’s coach Jenny Swieton said. “I think especially for our young women, it was much more comfortable and just easier for them to focus without the fear of getting too fatigued.”
CMU had five entries in the men’s race and were paced by the lone senior, Alec Omell, who finished sixth in 12:39, and finished five seconds behind the fifth-place runner, Oakland’s Keenan Jones. CMU’s Alec Esparza came in right behind Omell at 12:48.
Oakland’s Andy Bowman won the men’s race in 11:46.
Omell and Esparza leading the charge is a good sign for the Chippewas, coach Matt Kaczor said, because both are in the hunt to potentially fill the Nos. 6 and 7 slots in the regular lineup.
“It was nice to see those guys get out in front for us,” Kaczor said. “They both came in with a good race plan and didn’t stray away from it. With the big meets later in the season we will definitely need them to score well, so it was nice to see them just kind of stick their noses and in there and get after it.”
Both Chippewa teams will feature their full arsenals in a return trip to E.P. Sawyer State Park in Louisville for the Pre-National Invitational. That race is set for Saturday, Oct. 14, with the men running first at 10 a.m. and the women to follow at 10:45.