MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Azusa Pacific’s trip to the Midwest was supposed to be an opportunity to get away from the West coast and match up head-to-head with some of the top NCAA Division II programs from a different region. However, instead of making a run at some of the Top-25 programs from the Midwest, both Cougar cross country teams finished farther back than they expected Saturday morning in Minneapolis.
“We’ll see rough conditions again, and I don’t know if the conditions actually contributed to us not running well,” head coach Preston Grey said. “Some other schools from the West seemed to run just fine, so even though it was a tough course that did not have ideal racing conditions, for whatever reason we just didn’t handle it all very well. We have to take this and learn how to get better from it.”
Augustana, ranked in Division II’s top-five in both men’s and women’s cross country, ran away with both races, and Azusa Pacific finished 12th in the women’s race while the men were 18th overall.
The women’s race featured four top-25 teams , which all finished in the top-five of the team race. The Cougars were seven spots behind Southwest Baptist, which is currently ranked No. 20 in Division II. Azusa Pacific’s fastest finisher was Kristie Sikma, who took 25th overall with a time of 23:32.6. Sikma was followed by Reika Kijima (23:49.9) and Elle Farrar (24:03.3), with Natalie Koskela and Elizabeth Lyons rounding out the team’s top-five.
Meanwhile, the Cougars finished 18th as a team in a men’s race that included three teams from DII’s top-25, plus a UC San Diego squad that sits just two spots outside the top-25. The top men’s performer was Peter Buscheck, who crossed the finish line in 46th overall with a time of 26:37. Freshman Kyle Bueckert was next for the Cougars, placing 67th overall while notching a time of 26:54, and freshman Noah Pena ran a season-best on the challenging course to finish third on the team with his time of 27:10.
“The guys were in a good spot through the first three kilometers, but I guess it was a little too good of a spot because the wheels totally fell off and we kept moving backwards the rest of the race,” Grey said. “We just have to be better, and it’s everybody, not just one person. We need to train a little better, we have to race better, and we have to step up in big moments. That’s what our program has been built on, and it’s what we’re trying to learn how to do again.”
Azusa Pacific has one regular-season meet left to tune up before the Pacific West Conference cross country championships in early November, traveling to Sunnyvale for the Santa Clara Bronco Invitational on Oct. 19 before competing at the conference championship meet in the Bay Area Nov. 2. Two weeks later, the Cougars go back across a pair of time zones to compete at the National Christian College Athletic Association national championships meet on Nov. 16.