Season Preview: Annual Home Meet to Begin Cross Country Season
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
Season Preview: Annual Home Meet to Begin Cross Country Season

After making great strides during the first season under Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Vincent Walker, the Valparaiso University cross country program is set to embark upon Year 2 under Walker’s leadership by hosting the Winrow Open at Sunset Hill Farm County Park in Valparaiso.

This will mark the 34th running of the program’s home meet. The women’s 5K will begin at 5 p.m. followed by the men’s 6k at 5:45 p.m. Prior to the collegiate race, approximately 25 Valpo products will participate in an alumni 5K at 4 p.m. The meet is named after former Valpo head cross country coach Ed Winrow, who passed away in March 2020. Participating teams include Western Michigan (women only), Purdue, Notre Dame, Grace College, Goshen College, Calumet College of St. Joseph and the host Beacons.

“It’s always an honor to have the first meet of the season at home and have the opportunity to defend your house,” Walker said. “It’s fun to have some high-caliber teams coming to our home meet so we can test where we’re at right away. A lot of people put pressure on themselves for the first meet of the season, but as coaches we view this as another workout. This is a good test to see where we’re at coming off summer training and this will help us determine how we fine-tune things as we go into the next phase of the season.”

The men’s program has graduated two mainstays in Ignacio Veloz Bonilla and Eric Carothers, but seniors Evan Walda (Fort Wayne, Ind. / South Side) and Simeon Ehm (Castle Rock, Colo. / Heritage) are back to lead the group of returners. Ehm ranks third in program history in the 8K (24:48.3, 2022 Bradley Pink Classic) and fourth in the 10K (32:05.0, 2022 NCAA Regional). Walda is also an all-time top-10 runner in both distances, ranking seventh in the 8K (25:00.2, 2022 Bradley Pink Classic) and fifth in the 10K (32:19.2, 2022 NCAA Regional).

Sophomore Joseph Sheele (Mahomet, Ill. / Mahomet-Seymour) cracked the all-time top 10 in the 10K as a rookie last season, posting a time of 32:38.9 at the NCAA Regional. The Beacons welcome a trio of freshmen to the program in Noah Meacham (Tulsa, Okla. / Broken Arrow), Alejandro Chaves (Bayamon, P.R. / American Military Academy) and Karson Hollander (Lakewood, Ill. / Crystal Lake).

“We think we can be a top-half team in the MVC this year and continue to make jumps at the NCAA Regional,” Walker said. “Evan and Simeon have made big changes in their training and mileage. They’re already running faster in workouts than they were at this time last year. We think Joseph will be able to crack the all-time list in the 8K and we expect him to continue to move up in the 10K. Karson was a top runner in Illinois who has plugged into our program really well. Alejandro overcame a nasty accident that had him banged up last year, but he hasn’t missed a beat this summer. Noah was a top guy in his state as well, and he’s been right there in workouts and done a nice job. We’re excited about that young group as we build for the future.”

Key returnees on the women’s side include the senior trio of Grace Aurand (Highland, Ind. / Highland), Joely Overstreet (Genoa, Ill. / Genoa-Kingston) and Ellie Roeglin (Delafield, Wis. / Lake County Lutheran). Aurand ranks sixth in program history in the 6K (22:28.6, 2022 Bradley Pink Classic). Freshmen Vivian Rahmel (Springfield, Ill. / Sacred Heart-Griffin) and Lauren Wroza (Rochester, Mich. / Rochester) have immediately plugged into the top group, while fellow rookies Eva Heimsoth (Ottawa, Ill. / Ottawa Township) and Amelia Tisdale (Franklin, Ind. / Franklin Community) will add depth.

“Grace, Joely and Ellie had lights out indoor and outdoor track seasons,” Walker said. “We’re young but we have a little more depth than we had last year. Vivian and Lauren have adjusted to some of the newer training and it’s really paid off for them. Keep an eye on those two this year as they could crack the record books.”