The Creighton men’s and women’s cross country teams each opened their seasons last Friday at the Hawkeye Invitational in Iowa City as the men’s team placed third and the women’s team placed eighth.

Outside of a spring Big East meet, it was both teams’ first competition in almost two years, something that has helped provide the Jays with a promising outlook on what’s to come for the upcoming season.

“With that long of a layoff, it completely resets our focus,” coach Chris Gannon said. “We learned to not take anything for granted and show up dialed into practice every single day.”

For the women’s team, this increased focus is set by senior Danielle Hotalling, a returning Second Team All-Big East performer, as well as fellow senior Marguerite Hendrickson.

“I am just really excited to be back with the team,” Hotalling said. “Everyone is really dedicated and working hard to put us in the best possible position.”

However, the anticipation for the women’s team extends beyond their two star seniors, as all of their fastest seven runners have returned from last year.

“This is the best depth I think Creighton has ever had,” Gannon said. “This team has a real chance to have a really good season.”

The women’s team placed seventh out of eleven in last year’s Big East championship race in North Carolina.

On the men’s side there exists the same excitement and potential, even though they lost their fastest runner from last year, graduate Chase Howard.

“Chase was phenomenal for us, but we still

have a really solid group of guys that can accomplish something special this year as well,” Gannon said.

One of the reasons for the excitement is the stellar freshmen class, headlined by star recruit Ryan Montera. While at Legacy High School (Colorado), Montera had multiple top-10 finishes in state and national compe- titions.

“Ever since I got here, everyone has been so welcoming and so helpful,” Montera said. “They have pushed me and the team as a whole to get better.”

The third place finish for the men Friday marks the Jays’ highest finish in a D1 invitational since 2007, an early example of the Jays’ newfound depth and another reason for excitement.

“With this much depth and a smaller gap from the top to bottom, we have a real chance

to move up in the Big East,” Gannon said. Last March, the men’s team concluded their season with an eighth place overall finish in the Big East championship.

On Friday, senior John Quigley led with a sixth place finish, followed by sophomore Jack Larsen in 19th. Rounding out the Jays’ scoring was sophomore Marcos Gonzalez in 21st, junior Danny Bohnemann in 30th, and senior Aidan King in 31st.

On the women’s side, the seniors head- lined the scoring with Hotalling in 14th place and Hendrickson in 43rd. Freshman Abby Parker ran well in her first event, taking 58th. Sophomores Caroline Colburn (63rd) and Morgan Koca (65th) rounded out the scoring contingent.

Both teams will be back in action a week from Friday in Lincoln for the Woody Greeno/ Jay Dirksen Invite.

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