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Klaiber, Hanson lead cross country as programs return to ‘competition mode’

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The men’s and women’s cross country teams started the season last weekend in the Vic Godfrey Open in Somers, Wisconsin, finishing second and fourth respectively, but the program is not putting much weight in the early results.

Usually the first invitational in a cross country season indicates to coaches where their team is at talent-wise and what each runner needs to improve on.

“This is not a reflection of where our team will be a month from now; it was sort of a time trial for us,” head coach Mike Nelson said. “It gives them an opportunity to knock off the rust and get back into competition mode after the offseason.”

Nelson said he views the meet as just the beginning of a long season, and regardless of performances in the first meet, there is plenty for everyone to work on.

“As the year progresses it will become more clear who our top athletes are and where we’re at as a team,” Nelson said.

As the first collegiate meet for each team’s six freshmen, there is a substantial increase in distance from high school to the eight-kilometer race. Even though the transition was tough, the six freshmen on each team executed it well.

“I thought the freshmen did well,” Nelson said. “On both sides there is a lot to work with and a lot to improve upon.”

The top two finishers on the men’s team were senior Jon Klaiber and redshirt junior Ryan Burd. The women’s top finishers were senior Mary Hanson and junior Caitlin McGauley.

“Both Burd and McGauley stepped up and ran how I thought they could run,” Nelson said. “I was really proud of the way they competed. There’s always a difference between how you think someone can perform and how they actually do, and these two met expectations on Saturday.”

Hanson is a captain on the women’s side, so coaches expect a lot from her. She delivered Saturday with a time of 18:17 in the five-kilometer race.

“Mary was very smart,” Nelson said. “She raced intelligently and made a strong move in the last half mile.”

On the men’s, Klaiber is also a captain, and he achieved a time of 25:53 in the eight-kilometer race.

“He went right out and took the lead from the get go,” Nelson said. “He’s a very aggressive runner and doesn’t hold back.”

The Golden Eagles will compete in Madison at the Badger Classic, Sept. 14, and in Louisville, Kentucky at the Greater Louisville Classic, Sept. 29 . It will be another opportunity for the teams to make improvements to their times while attempting to win the competition as a unit.

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