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Connor Haven (left) and Enrique Salazar (right) and the MU cross country teams.
Photo provided by TJ Whitmer

Manchester Hosts First Cross-Country Event on New Track

TJ Whitmer

The track lights were flipped on for Saturday, Sept. 26, for a cross-country event between MU and Bluffton University that inaugurated the brand-new track. The nighttime meet offered a men’s and women’s 5k in addition to multiple elimination mile races.

This was the first time in five years that Manchester raced on a home track with a crowd against competition. Both men’s and women’s teams won the event, having top three finishers in each 5k. Connor Havens, first year, ran a 15:33, and Kelsey Tyler, junior, ran a 18:54. Both competitors were considered standout performers by Head Coach Brian Cashdollar and Assistant Coach Matthew Andrews. “Both athletes raced with focus and confidence,” Cashdollar said.

Many of the athletes ran personal bests in the 5k as well. “To have accomplished personal bests in September is exciting for the athletes,” Cashdollar said. Running fast times was a team effort that even included the coaching staff. Andrews, paced both 5k events and was glad to lend a small hand to both of their squads.

The goal was to set up fast times for both the men and women teams. “On the women’s side we wanted to help two individuals run times well under their previous personal bests,” Andrews said. “On the men’s side we wanted to get our leaders started with the right rhythm and allow them to carry that into the middle and end of their race.”

Morgan Chupp, first year, was excited to be able to compete during a time where a lot of sports are currently canceled. She did not meet her goal time of the 5k but was still proud of her effort. “I kept running till I had to stop,” she said. “Now it’s just time for improvement.”

After running the 5k the runners lined up for elimination mile races, something that Cashdollar always wanted to do but never had the opportunity to put on until now. As a group of runners complete one lap of the track, the athletes with the slowest times are asked to leave. This continues each lap of the four-lap mile until two or three athletes are running the final lap. “I gave the Bluffton coach a call and asked if he thought his athletes would like it and that’s what got the ball rolling,” Cashdollar said.

Enrique Salazar, sophomore, thought he would have been dead after running the 5k but felt everyone picking up the pace. “I just tried my best to pick it up at the end and then go back to a decent pace,” Salazar said.

Many of the MU athletes and coaches were happy with the new track and the feel of it. “I am so proud to work for a place like Manchester that took extra care to make sure this facility was going to be a great atmosphere to host track and field meets,” Cashdollar said. Being the first official sporting event to use the facility and having it under the lights, the team was able to show it off even more.

“The first NCAA MU race on the new track was a huge moment for the team to be a part of history,” Salazar said. As the season continues for the MU cross country teams, so does the work finalizing the next event at the new stadium. “We hope to bring competition back to the stadium in the spring,” Cashdollar said. “We host our first track and field meet in five years on Saturday, Apr. 10, 2021.”