HUTCH WOMEN WANT TO ADD TO BREAKTHROUGH 2017 SEASON

America Garcia and the Blue Dragon women open the season with high hopes on Friday at the Terry Masterson Twilight Classic at Fun Valley.
America Garcia and the Blue Dragon women open the season with high hopes on Friday at the Terry Masterson Twilight Classic at Fun Valley.
INFORMATION BOX

BLUE DRAGON WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY

Terry Masterson Twilight Classic

When: Friday, August 31, 2018

Where: Fun Valley, Hutchinson, KS

Women's Race: 8:30 p.m.

Men's Race: 9:05 p.m.

Results: Heartland Timing (available after each race)

Meet Information

Parking: Main Fun Valley lot on west side of complex.

Admission: Free to public

Click for Course Map

Hutchinson CC Sports Information

The 2017 women's cross country season was a breakthrough-type campaign at Hutchinson Community College.

Ranked in every national poll for the first time since the national championship season of 2001, the 2017 Blue Dragons finished fifth at Region VI and 18th in the NJCAA Championships, which matched their national ranking.

Eight runners return from that 2017 team, including three runners who were consistently in the top five Blue Dragon runners. Add to that, the first international runner since Ruth Limo to run for the Blue Dragons and fourth-year head coach Justin Riggs thinks of the possibilities for the 2018 Blue Dragon women.

"We have some really good sophomores coming back," Riggs said. "We've been going since August 1st, so we are really looking forward to getting the season started Friday night. The kids are getting antsy to get things going."

Friday night is the season-opening Terry Masterson Twilight Classic at Fun Valley. The women's race begins at 8:30 p.m. and the men's race about 9:05 p.m. This will be Hutchinson's only home meet of 2018.

Riggs will have to replace 2017's top runner in Maggie Lambert, who had the second-fastest 5K time in team history during her career.

But three runners return who were consistent scorers for the Dragons in 2017.

"Aileen Gomez and Sarah Patteson were usually in our top three runners last year," Riggs said. "America Garcia is another key returner from last season."

Patteson finished 106th at the NJCAA Championships last season with a time of 20:18.3. Garcia was 109th in a career-best time of 20:20.

Gomez, who saw a strong start to her freshman season slowed by injuries, finished 195th in 21:37.4. Before the injury, Gomez's best time was 19:35.

Two other returning sophomores saw action at the 2017 NJCAA Championships. Saw Ahmara ran a season-best time of 20:45.7 was 144th. Macy Linenberger was 173rd in a time of 21:10.2

The Blue Dragons have just two freshmen this season in in-state runner Gabby Collins from DeSoto, Kansas and Lisayo Ewoi from Nanyuki, Kenya.

Riggs is hoping that Ewoi will give the 2018 Blue Dragons a front-pack presence this season.

"With some of the new rules, it's easier to recruit some international talent," Riggs said. "We are hoping those three kids (including Hutch men's runners Sylvestre Kibarar and Andrew Kibet) can be front runners. We've had good teams the last few years, but never had a runner up front in the race. That will help us climb in the team standings this year."

The Blue Dragons will run in five regular-season meets in 2018. After the Masterson Classic, the Dragons travel to Missouri Southern Stampede on September 15, Emporia State on October 6, and Fort Hays State on October 25 before heading to Winfield for the Region VI Championships on October 27.