DetroitOctober 22, 2013
Running for the Horizon
By Mark Vest
C & G Sports Writer
The University of Detroit Mercy cross country program has combined for four top-three finishes in meets this season, including a first-place finish by the men’s squad at the Detroit Titan Invitational Sept. 7.
While Guy Murray, the director of track and field, and cross country at UDM, said he was “pleased with how the season started off,” what he considers to be the Titans’ biggest meet of the season still lies ahead.
The Horizon League Championship is scheduled to take place Nov. 2 in Boardman, Ohio, and while the races that preceded it also count for something, it is at that meet where a league championship will be on the line.
“To win league would be a huge thing for us,” he said. “Our league has been very, very tough up front. To get to the top would be a great accomplishment for us.”
The Titans’ men’s squad has never won a league championship meet, while Murray said the women’s team hasn’t captured a title since 1988. And as much as Murray may want to change that, regardless of how well UDM may run, there is only so much the Titans can do to control the final standings.
“We’re just worried about ourselves — worried about doing the best we can,” he said. “In our sport, we can’t play defense. We can only control what we do. The thing with our sport, if you run your best and the other guy runs a little better, there’s not much you can do. If you give your all, that’s all you can do.”
Sam Felton (St. Joseph High School) and Martin Nelkie (West Branch Ogemaw Heights) are the seniors on the men’s team, while Louisa Coppola (Warren Woods Tower), Ciara Curley-Poppe (Harrison Township L’Anse Creuse North), Torrie Eger (Buchanan) and Rachel Hofsess (Milford) are the Titans’ senior representatives on the women’s squad. Murray indicated he has gotten some good leadership from his group of seniors.
After finishing in fourth place at last year’s Horizon League Championship meet, Curley-Poppe would like for the Titans women’s squad to have a strong showing in her final season with the team.
“It means a lot to us,” she said. “We’ve been working really well as a team. As a team, we’re hoping to do well in the Horizon League, then doing well (at) regionals. Our goal is to be higher up in the Horizon League (than last season’s fourth-place finish). As a whole, I think we’re able to accomplish that.”
Following the Horizon League, the Titans’ next big opportunity is scheduled to come at the Great Lakes Regional Nov. 15, which determines which programs move on to the NCAA Division I Championships.
Murray referred to that meet as the “final exam,” and he would like for UDM to finish inside the top 20.
Murray’s long-term goal is for UDM to get “better and better,” and he expressed optimism about the future of the program and its attempt to be a contender in the Horizon League.
“Our training has gone well,” he said. “We’ve made some nice improvements. We’ve had some good people step in and make (a) positive contribution. We’ve got some veterans coming back and running even better. I’m optimistic all the work we’ve put in will pay off at the end.”