Four short months ago, Butler men’s and women’s cross country brought home the first two Atlantic-1o Conference titles in school history.
This past weekend, runners from both teams blended with the rest of the track team to try their hands – rather, feet – at another new meet: the Atlantic-1o Indoor Track and Field Championships.
This time, though, the goal was a little different.
“We haven’t been in the conference before, and the conference is ever-changing,” said head coach Matt Roe, “so we didn’t really score the meet out. But we felt like we could win some individual and relay titles, and that was a goal which we achieved.
“Other than that, we wanted to run the best that we had run all year indoors, and use the momentum from this meet to prepare for the outdoor season.”
When final scores came around, Butler’s men had jumped (from being out of the top five on Day 1) to fourth place with 68 points. The women had improved (from eleventh) to ninth with 39. Charlotte took both team titles with 190.5 points for the men and 142.5 for the women.
But Butler’s rather low scores certainly don’t tell the whole story.
One relay team and three individual athletes captured titles at the conference championships this year. Junior Craig Jordan was one of them, winning the men’s 1000m run in a time of 2:27.33.
“I was really, really happy about it,” Jordan said. “It was a long weekend because I usually don’t race that much. So I didn’t really care about the time as long as I won.”
Sophomores Tom Curr and Mara Olson also won their respective races. Curr won the men’s mile, clocking 4:16.48, while Olson was the champ of the 3000m run in 9:46.95.
Olson’s title comes only a week after being named A-1o Performer of the Week.
“It’s been a very interesting indoor season,” said Olson, who’s become a sort of specialist in the 3000m despite this being her first season doing it. “We didn’t have a specific tactic going into the (3000m) race,” she said. “Honestly, Lauren McKillop was the MVP. She got it down to a four-man race, and gave us the opportunity to go one-two. I was happier to finish one-two than to win it. That made up for some of the other disappointments of the day.”
The men’s Distance Medley Relay of Curr, Jordan, sophomore Kellan Strobel and junior Alex Berry took the fourth Butler win. Their relay covered 4000m in a time of 10:00.87, just missing the A-1o record of 10:00.09.
“I wasn’t aware of what the record was,” Jordan said. “We were just running to win it. LaSalle had a guy who could’ve run with Tom (Curr in the mile), but they were trying to strategize. And because they did that, they didn’t have anyone to run a good mile. Tom put 5 seconds on (LaSalle’s runner) even though we were behind by three.”
Along with the four titles, a handful of others finished in the top five positions of their events.
Tom Anderson was runner-up in two events, the 3000m run (8:24.86) and 5000m run (14:25.56).
“It kind of summed up the weekend,” Anderson said. “We were almost there, but we just barely missed out on having a really good meet.
“On the whole, I’m happy. I would’ve loved a gold medal, but that’s just motivation for me for outdoors. And it was a good weekend and some great performances all around.”
Anderson finished just .44 seconds behind LaSalle’s Alfredo Santana in the 3000m and a little more than a second behind him in the 5000m.
“The support was fantastic,” Anderson said. “It was unbelievable. I’ve never raced in an atmosphere like it. It was the highlight of the weekend to see everybody behind the 5k race the way they were. It kind of brought the whole team together.”
Also on the men’s side, junior Ross Clarke finished third in the 1000m run with a time of 2:27.69, while freshman Luke Zygmunt placed fifth (2:29.22). In addition to winning the mile, Curr was fifth in the men’s 800m with a time of 1:56.97. Butler also finished fourth in both the men’s 1600m and 3200m relays.
For the women, senior Kirsty Legg and Olson went two-three in the women’s mile, clocking 4:56.83 and 4:57.97, respectively. Senior Lauren McKillop finished second in the 3000m run with a time of 9:48.74, and third in the 5000m run, clocking 17:11.80.
Despite the rather meager team finish, McKillop said that just being at the Atlantic-1o Indoor Championships for the first time was a major stepping stone for the squad.
“I think we would’ve really liked to finish top six or so,” she said, adding that there were a few people who probably should’ve scored but didn’t, affecting the team score. “But everyone has off days, and I’m happy with my performance. Hopefully we’ll use this as a starting point to do better – I really think it’s going to motivate us.”
Coach Roe said he was “happy with the effort across the board.” He had a few words for his teams after the meet, but according to runners from both the men’s and women’s squads, it was all positive.
“He just told us to remember the feeling we have,” Jordan said. “Whether we did well or didn’t, remember how we feel, and apply it to our training. That’s the one thing he kept saying: remember how we feel now when May comes.”
Coach Roe also said he will review this week’s training before he decides who to send to the Alex Wilson Invitational, the last chance meet for runners to qualify for NCAA Division I Indoor Nationals. Hosted by Notre Dame, Alex Wilson will be held on March 1st and 2nd in South Bend, Ind.