Saturday was another day of success for the Saint Mary cross country teams at the KCAC Cross Country Championships. Kaitlyn Shoemaker and Phillip Lagemann once again won their individual races and helped the teams capture two more conference titles for the program. Shoemaker’s effort also secured the Saint Mary athlete of the week honor with football player Nicholas Holmes.
It was the sixth straight year for the men and the second for the women winning the title.
Head coach Alstin Benton said that it has been a goal over the last few seasons to become a program with a strong team on both sides.
“That’s a big goal we set for both teams,” Benton said. “We don’t want to be just a team that wins six straight on our men’s side. We want to get our women’s side to that point as well. So that was a big goal and we put a lot into that. So it was cool to see it.”
Benton was also named the coach of the year again. He said it’s the effort of his runners that helps him get that award.
“So in my opinion,” Benton said. “It really has little to do with me and a lot to do with them and the work those guys do.”
For Lagemann, the senior said it felt cool to win again.
“It felt pretty cool,” Lagemann said. “Going back-to-back wins is pretty excited. I was more excited about the time to be honest. Getting out there and grinding.”
Lagemann’s time of 24:47 set a new program record and continued the successful year for the senior. He said he was also happy to see some of his teammates finish so close with five of the top six spots being a USM athlete.
Shoemaker also set a record with her time of 17:47 to break a program and conference record on her way to another individual victory for the year, her fourth. She said the win proved that her work has paid off, but the senior is more happy with the team result.
“I was more excited seeing my team bring home the gold than I was for winning the race individually,” Shoemaker said. “The individual win proved that all of my hard work continues to pay off and that I am playing my role on the team to the best of my ability.”
Shoemaker is in her first year with the program after transferring. She said the success has made her feel important to the team’s overall success.
“It makes me feel important knowing that I have had such a massive impact on the women’s team in my first year with the program,” Shoemaker said. “I want to do right by my team and school by reaching my God-given potential and working my hardest.”
Benton said the addition of Shoemaker can help the program take the next step.
“Shoemaker has been a huge addition to our program,” Benton said. “She is the type of runner who helps us take that next step as a program.”
Next up for the Spires is the NAIA National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa, on Nov. 16. Benton said the key to keeping the success going will be to not change what they’ve been doing all year.
Lagemann said motivating the rest of the team will also be key and motivate them for next year.
Both Lagemann and Shoemaker both see the future as bright for the team as their cross country careers at Saint Mary come to a close.
“We are going to set the bar up high for them,” Lagemann said. “And then they’re going to break it.”
Shoemaker sees a bright future for the women.
“The future is bright for the women’s program here at USM,” Shoemaker said. “I am blessed to know that I have been able to leave my own mark here at Saint Mary as my senior cross country season comes to a close.”