Top Five Finishes

Overcoming injuries and inexperience, Western Michigan University's cross country teams recorded top five finishes at the Mid-American Conference Championships, held Saturday (Nov. 1) at the Mayfair Country Club in Green, Ohio.

WMU's women's squad placed fourth out of 13 teams with 120 points, marking the team's highest finish since the 1995 season. Ball State captured its first-ever title with 73 points, followed by preseason favorite Toledo (78) and host Akron (82). Finishing behind WMU were Miami (124), Central Michigan (130), Kent State (160), Bowling Green (172), Buffalo (248), Eastern Michigan (264), Northern Illinois (277), Marshall (323) and Ohio (330).

The Brown & Gold placed three runners among the top 25 finishers, with Meryl Marsh pacing the team for a second straight week. The former sprinter turned distance runner took 15th overall, covering the 5 kilometer course in 18 minutes, 9 seconds. Teammate Katie Kelel, who didn't even compete at last year's event, claimed 20th place with a P.R. of 18:15 while Rachel Lowe finished 25th, clocking 18:27. Sarah Hinkley, WMU's top runner this season, battled through a foot ailment to score for the Broncos with a 32nd-place showing.

"I couldn't be prouder of a group that was not running at full strength," said coach Kelly Lycan. "We had some ladies today who came to run and really stepped it up. We went out hard and hung on tough to the very end. Coach (Becki) Bishop deserves a lot of credit for working with our distance runners."

A relative young WMU men's squad, featuring just two seniors, placed fifth overall out of 12 teams with 146 points. Central Michigan (46) edged Eastern Michigan (48) for the second straight year with Miami placing third (67) and Kent State (98) fourth. Teams finishing behind WMU were: Toledo (177), Ball State (197), Ohio (230), Akron (246), Buffalo (264), Marshall (336) and Bowling Green (350).

Sophomore Aaron Nasers led his teammates across the finish line for the first time this season, seizing 14th place with an 8 kilometer time of 24:45. Classmate Matt French took 19th overall (24:45) and Chris Stine finished 38th (25:47) to score for the fifth time this season. Freshman Kevin Gienapp also scored for the Broncos, placing 42nd in his first sub-26 minute performance (25:50) of the year.

"I'm pleased with how our guys ran today, it's a testimony to how strong the conference is this year," said coach Mike Turk. "We've made much improvement over the season and are taking steps in the right direction."

Both WMU squads close their 2003 campaign at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, to be held Nov. 15 in Terre Haute, Ind.

Notes: Gavin Thompson of Eastern Michigan defended his individual title (23:39) ? the fourth in a row for the Eagles * Andrea Kremer of Miami (17:16) won on the women's side after placing fourth last year.

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