The Rockets raced their way into the history books Saturday as the women’s cross country team won the program’s sixth Mid-American Conference championship. UT tallied a team score of 48 with five runners finishing inside the top 15 at the race in Mount Pleasant, Mich.Senior Mackenzie Chojnacky paced Toledo with a fourth-place finish and a time of 20:30. Also placing in the top 10 for the No. 27 Rockets was senior Brooke Tullis (8th place) and sophomore Janelle Noe (10th place). Senior Cara DeAngelis finished in 21:12 and placed 12th while senior Liz Weiler followed closely in 14thplace.
“The women ran well [Saturday] and were able to come home with a title,” UT Head Coach Linh Nguyen said. “There was a lot of motivation for the meet this year. We knew with the smaller field that getting toward the front and staying tight was going to be key. I was really proud of the women and how they fought on the course. This team is full of some pretty great people and it’s nice to see good things happen for them.”
Toledo’s title is it’s fourth in the last five seasons and Toledo’s Nguyen was named Women’s Coach of the Year. The honor was selected by the leagues head coaches following the championship races.
“This award really has the wrong name because this is an award actually won by the team,” Nguyen said. “It’s given to me but earned by those women who train hard every day and toe the line at the races. I thank them for being great student-athletes who are a joy to coach. I thank them for giving Toledo the best they have each and every day.”
Eastern Michigan’s Victoria Voronko claimed her first women’s individual title with a MAC record time of 20.21. Western Michigan freshman Maria McDaniel finished second with a time of 20:26; Sofie Gallein of EMU took home the bronze with a time of 20:28.
The men’s squad placed eighth in Saturday. Senior Jake Kasperski paced the team in 30th-place and official time of 25:26. Junior Adam Bess placed 37th, while senior Adam Smercina finished just behind his teammate in 38th place.
“The end result wasn’t what we wanted today, but I’m proud of the men for the way they attacked the race,” Nguyen said. “There was no fear today, and they put themselves in the race early and went for it. Sometimes you do that and it doesn’t quite work out, but you have to give yourself a chance to succeed. We’ve seen a lot of positive growth this season, and we have another shot in two weeks.”
Eastern Michigan’s Willy Fink claimed his first men’s individual title with a time of 24:15. Fellow Eagle, Lahsene Bouchikhi, finished in second with a time of 24:20, while Miami’s Joseph Stewart crossed the finish line in third with a time of 24:21.