Valparaiso University opens its 2016 men’s and women’s cross country season this Friday, Sept. 2 in the 28th Crusader Open at Sunset Hills Farm. This will be the 23rd straight year in which this meet serves as the Crusaders’ season opener. Valpo will be joined by the men’s and women’s squads from Notre Dame Friday. The women’s 5K race is set to begin at 5 p.m., with the men’s 6K to follow at 5:45 p.m.
The men’s team returns a number of experienced runners from a season ago. Senior Max Morello (Plano, Ill./Plano) returns as the top finisher for the Crusaders last season in the Horizon League Championship with an 8K time of 26:40.66, while he was the second-fastest Valpo runner a year ago at the Crusader Open. Another top returner from last season is senior Jesse Greenhagen (Waverly, Minn./Mayer Lutheran), who paved the way for the Crusaders at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional with a time of 34:10.2 on the 10K course. Greenhagen was the second Valpo runner to cross the finish line at the Horizon League Championship last year, just behind Morello with a time of 26:41.86.
Senior Liz Owen (Freedom, Wis/Freedom) looks to lead the Valpo women’s squad this year after capturing All-Horizon League honors for a second straight season a year ago. The 2015 Second Team All-League finisher placed 14th at the Horizon League Championship with a time of 22:44.25. Joining Owen among the top returners this season for the Crusaders is junior Kim Heiny (Burnettsville, Ind./Twin Lakes). Heiny was the second-fastest Valpo runner five times last season, finishing 15th last year in the Crusader Open with a time of 20:51.7.