By Jeff Brown
Youngstown State University’s men’s and women’s cross country teams each have a common goal this season, to win the Horizon League Championship.
The women are looking to capture their third straight league title and have placed in the top three in each of the last four seasons.
Junior runner McKinsie Klim said she did not expect this kind of success when she first signed with YSU.
“I thought it was going to be very low key and just an OK team. I wasn’t really expecting anything,” Klim said.
Klim believes the team’s great chemistry is a major reason for its past success and is why they have a great chance at another title this season.
“We just have good chemistry. We enjoy running together. We generally do workouts in groups so you have someone to go with. It adds motivation,” Klim said. “I hope this year we can put a bigger gap in between us because last year was kind of close.”
Last season the women narrowly defeated the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee by 13 points to win the league title.
Head coach Brian Gorby credits the women’s success to the ability to recruit the top talent in the Youngstown area, thanks in large part to the program’s successful history.
“There is a tradition here of going after championships, and these kids understand what that’s all about,” Gorby said. “From an overall standpoint, to be one of two teams to win back-to-back triple crowns out of 400 teams in the country is just a credit to the entire process.”
Junior Melissa Klim, McKinsie Klim’s sister, thinks that the tradition is something that inspires the team.
“We want to keep it going, nobody wants to be the one to drop the ball,” she said.
The men’s team on the other hand has not been as dominant as the women’s program in the past few seasons, but much optimism follows the team after a third place finish in last year’s Horizon League Cross Country Championship.
“[The men’s team is] leaps and bounds above where we were four years ago,” Gorby said. “You got to give these guys tons of respect. We got guys like Jon Hutnyan who puts in 80-100 miles a week, and doing everything he can to help the program to be successful — we got so many of those guys.”
Austin McLean is the leader of the team this season. Last season he set the school record in the 10k race and was the top finisher for YSU in all six races the team competed in last season. McLean however is not satisfied with last year’s third place finish.
“We were a little bit upset with the third place. We put a lot of work in last year so it was kind of upsetting,” McLean said. “I think this year we honestly have the most talented team we’ve ever had, and a lot of guys are willing to work really hard. I think we should actually be able to go for the championship this year.”
YSU’s first event this year is the Duquesne Duals on Dec. 5.