WATERTOWN, Wis. -- Finally, after over five weeks of nothing but training, both of the Maranatha Cross Country Teams have a chance to test themselves out in the first competition of the 2020 season.
After the disappointment of seeing Mount Mercy's Mustang Gallup cancelled on September 5, the teams have had to be patient. This year's start comes a full three weeks after the usual start date.
Needless to say, the runners can't wait for this afternoon's season-opener.
"We have a lot of excitement to get into a race and compete," said Jeremy Fopma, winner of last year's NCCAA DII National Championship. "We're really confident because we've put in so much extra work that we wouldn't have [with a normal schedule], but at the same time, we're not sure where we're at [physically], so we're going to this meet to get answers. We're ready to hurt tomorrow. It's the first big step of the season to find out what the team looks like, what we're made of, and where we're gonna go with it."
It's slated to be an abbreviated season, which comes as no surprise in 2020:
HOW TO FOLLOW
- mbusabercats.com/schedule - visit for gameday information including directions, live statistics, and live video.
- Twitter (@MBUSabercats) - visit to join the gameday and season-long conversations about Maranatha Athletics.
- Facebook (/MBUSabercats) - visit for photo galleries, live video, and regular updates.
- Instagram (@mbusabercats)
|Midwest Intercollegiate||9/25||Bourbannais, Ill.|
|Warrior Invitational||10/3||West Allis, Wis.|
|Jayhawk Invitational||10/17||Muskegon, Mich.|
|Mustang Jamboree||10/24||Cedar Rapids, Iowa|
|NCCAA Nationals||11/14||Point Lookout, Mo.|
- The Sabercats will compete in three of the five scheduled events for the first time.
- The Men's Team always runs an 8,000-meter race while the Women run either a 5K or a 6K.
- NCCAA Nationals will be hosted by the College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, Mo.) at a venue that proved unusually difficult in 2018.
- Each event is in a different state.
- The teams can qualify for NCCAA Nationals at any race during the regular season. Qualifying methods are outlined below.
- Three of the nine Men's runners are new to the program.
- The Women's Team returns four veterans and welcomes four rookies.
The teams could punch tickets for NCCAA Nationals as early as this afternoon, as the NCCAA has outlined various qualifying methods for the season finale:
|Team||Men||3:00:00 8K (36:00 avg)|
|Team||Women||2:05:00 5K* (25:00 avg)|
|*includes 5K splits|
If the teams meet the team-qualifying time, they can run as many student-athletes as they see fit at the national championships.
YOUTH AND EXPERIENCE
Four runners return to the Women's Team: Haly Hendricks, Sierra John, Katie Jean Lingle, and Abigail Doak. New runners Myah Hoffman, Katherine Rupert, Rebekah Shetter, and Katelyn Smith are newcomers to the squad.
The Men's Team returns Jeremy Fopma (2019 NCCAA DII National Champion), Jefferson Rupert, Jordan Hoffman, Jonathan Gilliam, Zach Brungard, and Drew Smith. Newcomers Josiah Cochran, Jeremiah Markle, and Jeremy Zobel will be lacing it up for the Blue and Gold.
Isaiah Steinbart returns to the helm of the programs in his third season as head coach. Madelyn Hansel returns as an assistant coach, and John Warnke, a Simpson College graduate, joins the coaching staff as well.
Both assistant coaches have put in the hours during preseason, doing everything they can to prepare the teams.
"Coming into the season we knew we needed to be able to adjust regularly," Warnke said. "Our schedule was changing on a nearly daily basis in August and we didn't know when the team would be able to race. The guys responded well to an increased focus on strength and speed work with the time we would usually be preparing for races, and the longer build-up has just built up anticipation and given us more time to gain fitness."
On the women's side, things aren't that different - the runners are prepped and ready for this afternoon.
"The overall attitude of the women's team is excited anticipation," Hansel said. "They've put in a lot of work the past couple of weeks and are ready to see what they can do. For some, this is their first-ever race, and a little uncertainty is expected. But they have prepared well and are ready to run. We're excited to see what both teams will accomplish."
The Midwest Intercollegiate (Olivet Nazarene University/Bourbannais, Illinois) will be the long-awaited first stop on the 2020 season. The men's 8K will start at 4 p.m. and the women's 6K will begin at 4:45 p.m.
Spectators are prohibited from attending today's race, so you can find results at mbusabercats.com/schedule.