The seventh-ranked mens and womens Allen County cross country teams are not quite where head coach Vince DeGrado would like them to be.
On Sept. 15, the Red Devils traveled to Joplin to compete in the Missouri Southern State Stampede and came away with a second-place finish on the mens side and a fifth-place finish for the women.
For the first time in DeGrados coaching tenure including his stint at Cowley County both teams finished behind Hutchinson with the women also finishing behind Cowley. That, amongst other things, bothered the still- suspended Red Devils coach when reviewing the tournament.
I wasnt there for the meet because I am still sanctioned, DeGrado said. So I watched from the hotel room. From what I saw, theyre not racing with a purpose. My assistant (Dwight Davis) and a few coaching buddies of mine were at the meet and they told me that the team didnt look like it normally does. They didnt run with a chip on our shoulder and thats something were going to have to figure out.
Its not the first time in the recent past that Allen County has not performed up to expectations. Last track season, the Red Devils got off to a slow start on both the mens and womens side before pulling out a very respectable finish despite the fact that they didnt have their head coach at their meets for most of the season.
Until the NJCAA rules on DeGrado, who recently had misdemeanor assault charges stemming from an incident at the NJCAA Indoor National Meet earlier this year dismissed, the coach is still banned from attending any meets with any other NJCAA team present for this season and next. However, despite the frustration, DeGrado has insisted upon his team that their situation is no excuse for a lackluster performance.
We cant make an excuse about the coach not being there, DeGrado said. At the end of the day, they need to do what they need to do. Weve got to get angry and mad and find whatever motivation we can find. We have to want it.
It wasnt all doom and gloom though.
For the men, three runners placed in the top 10 led by sophomore Joshua Clethen who finished fourth with a time of 26:12.7. Freshman Joshua Doria finished fifth at 26:13.3 and sophomore Yoel Yoel seventh (26:34.3).
We did have some good performances on the mens side, DeGrado said. The two Joshs Doria and Clethan both ran really well and Yoel Yoel turned in a good performance. But we had a couple of freshmen that I thought would step up better but they didnt. We had an average race and it showed.
Meanwhile, the women were led by sophomore Amber Gloria who wrote herself into the record books. The sophomore finished sixth with a time of 18:53.2 which was the fifth-fastest time in program history.
Past Gloria though, bright spots were few and far between.
The women were very similar to the men but their problem is their fitness, DeGrado said. We need our sophomore girls to step up and get in shape. I know that and Ive addressed that. Once that happens were going to be good.
The Red Devils raced in Fayetteville, Ark., over the weekend and now have several weeks before their next meet. DeGrado hopes that not only his team will have more figured out by then but also that his situation will have reached a satisfying conclusion.
Theres a saying in poker that all you need is a chip and a chair, DeGrado said. Were still ranked seventh in the nation on both sides. I never thought Id be disappointed with being ranked seventh but thats just me thinking the glass is never full. You can always put more in. Im not being pessimistic but you can always be better than you are.
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