JOSHUA MULLENIX | STAFF REPORTER | email@example.com
Butler men’s and women’s cross country begin their respective seasons with two different mindsets. The men’s team brings back almost everyone from last year and is looking to make a deep run. The women have a new look that highlights a big time sophomore followed by many new faces.
The men are returning six of their top seven runners from the previous season led by redshirt sophomore Euan Makepeace. The Loughborough, England, native finished third at the conference championship last year and backed that finish up with a top-10 finish at the Great Lakes Regional.
Coach Matt Roe, in his 11th year as the Butler cross-country coach, returns three more All-Conference runners behind Makepeace. Seniors Bobby Johnson and Matt Lumbar as well as redshirt sophomore Johnny Leverenz are returning for the Bulldogs.
They are joined by sophomore Evan Johnson and senior Jonathan Collier, who both had top-30 finishes at last year’s Big East Conference championship. This strong group of veteran runners looks to dethrone Georgetown after finishing third in the Big East last season.
“I’m excited about the whole group of returners on the men side,” Roe said. “They all had great summers and trained at a high level. I’m really excited for the whole unit who has a lot to prove. We haven’t achieved our full potential yet so it’s exciting to see them work toward that.
Roe added five freshman to his team. Including Barry Keane, who ran the 5000m for Team Ireland at the U23 European Champions over the summer.
The women’s side of Butler cross country begins the year in a different situation compared to the veteran-heavy men’s team.
They said goodbye to three of their top four finishers at the Big East Championships at the conclusion of last season. The women finished 4th in the Big East and went on to finish 8th in the Great Lakes Regional. As a result, the women’s team is one of the youngest in the country and looking to improve behind a strong leader.
The women are spearheaded by Josephine Thestrup. The sophomore from Denmark began her Butler career with a 7th place finish at the Big East Championship and a 34th-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional last year.
“I learned a lot about the training philosophy and how to run the meets surrounded by other girls,” Thestrup said. “This year, I have more confidence with all the training and experience.”
Thestrup is accompanied by seven freshmen and just two upperclassmen. The women’s team is focused on getting better together as a team.
“Because we are so young, there’s not a lot of pressure on us,” Thestrup said. “I hope we can use that to our benefit to just focus on developing and everyone getting into the training and focusing on the little things that we have to do right.”
Despite the inexperience, the team features two other redshirt sophomores who are returning for their third season. Kailyn Jessel and Meredith Gallagher will be alongside Thestrup as guiding hands for the incoming first years and can have an impact on the course if they can stay healthy.
Kristen Johnson is also returning for her sophomore season after a freshman campaign highlighted by a 71st place finish at the Big East Championship and a 10th place finish at the Butler Opener.
Roe said he hopes his team does not lose sight of the things they can control throughout the season.
“What doesn’t change is your approach in terms of what you can control,” Roe said. “Effort, execution, positivity, habit — there are a lot of things we can control. We have to teach our athletes how we approach the sport. Basic tenants of how we approach the sport don’t change regardless of the personnel.”
Prior to the Big East championship meets, the teams will compete at the Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend, Indiana, on Sept. 29. Last year, 10 nationally-ranked teams attended the meet in South Bend. The NCAA Pre-National event will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, on Oct. 14.
This year’s Big East Championship for men and women will be in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Oct. 28 followed by the Great Lakes Regional in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Nov. 11. The NCAA Championships will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, on Nov. 18.
Butler’s next meet will be in Terre Haute, Indiana, at the John McNichols’ Invitational hosted by Indiana State on Sept. 9.