Saluki women dominate season opener

By Symone Woolridge


The women’s Saluki cross-country team successfully defeated the competition at the Eastern Illinois University Walt Crawford Open Friday, finishing with six runners in the top 10 and eight in the top 25.

Junior Sadie Darnell was a first-place finisher with a personal-best time of 17:37.52. Darnell said she is very excited about her performance, as being the first of 128 competitors was a big accomplishment.


“I think I did really well. It’s a good start to the season and I am really happy with how the race went,” she said.

Darnell completed the race beating the 2012 Walt Crawford winner and All-Conference runner Kelby Jenkins of Evansville.

Head coach Matt Sparks said he was extremely happy with Darnell’s performance.

“For Sadie to beat Jenkins was a big step for her in the right direction as she works toward being all-conference this year,” Sparks said.

The Salukis prepared for the Walt Crawford meet differently than usual. Instead of running individually, the runners decided to run together as a group during the first half of the race.

“It was really awesome that my teammates were right there with me,” Darnell said. “We just kept passing the competition when finally Kristen and I pushed to the front and finished strong.”

Sophomore Kristen Levi finished third with a personal-best time of 17:44.64.


“All of our teammates did pretty well,” Levi said. “By the end of the race, we were all pretty close to each other still, then Sadie eventually broke away and came out with the win.”

Levi said the team was very excited about its first meet of the year, and said she and her teammates were fairly confident before the meet began.

“Us as a team all came into the meet with a very positive attitude and we knew exactly what we wanted to accomplish here,” Levi said. “Then we went out and took it for the team.”

Sparks said Levi has shown great dedication and commitment to the sport, as well as Darnell, who has made a big impact throughout her time at SIU.

“Sadie and Kristen have been very vocal leaders in the past few years, and they have started the season off very well together leading the pack,” Sparks said.

Meanwhile, the Saluki men’s cross-country team completed an 8K race at the Walt Crawford Open. Only three men competed in the meet, which included junior Evan Ehrenheim, who finished 14th, and senior T.J. Heffernan, who completed the race in 16th place.

Heffernan sustained injuries last season, and Sparks said it has been a big step for him to get through and finish the race.

“We are looking for T.J. to step up and run more competitively now that he has two successful races under his belt,” Sparks said. “He won the race last week and finished his first 8K race in a year, and that is a very big deal for us.”

Heffernan finished the race with a time of 26:33.45. His injury has affected him, but he said he is working hard to stay healthy.

“I think I did all right, but there is obviously room for improvement,” Heffernan said. “Today I realized that I can run way better than I did, and I am happy with the way I competed.”

Heffernan said he followed Ehrenheim up until the 5K point of the race.

“He has been doing a lot of mileage, so I followed him,” he said. “But I am hoping throughout the next few weeks that I start getting some endurance so I can make a contributing factor toward the team.”

The cross-country team will compete Sept. 21 at the Saluki Invitational, where both men’s and women’s teams will debut.

“We are expecting to win both sides; we are running to win,” Sparks said.