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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

SMC Cross Country: Hokum Karem poses unique challenges

Saint Mary's will look to defend its preseason top-10 regional ranking, the first in program history, when it travels to Crawfordsville, Ind., on Saturday to open its season at the Wabash Hokum Karem.

The Hokum Karem, which is hosted by Wabash College, poses a unique season-opening challenge for the Belles. The event features a mix of Division II and Division III squads in a relay-style race for teams of two. In the race, each team member completes a one-mile loop before handing off the baton to her teammate, who runs the same loop and returns the baton, a process that continues until the team runs six miles.

Belles head coach Jackie Bauters said the unique format of the Hokum Karem allows her team to return to competition in a fun, low-stress environment.

"One of the benefits, I feel, of [the Hokum Karem] is the opportunity for the girls to get a racing experience without much pressure," Bauters said. "It is a really fun event that the team looks forward to at this point, and it allows them to get back into the racing mentality with quality running."

Bauters has not yet determined her team pairings for Saturday's meet, but she said she would try to pair team members recording similar times for the distance.

After recording a third-place finish in the Hokum Karem last year, Saint Mary's will come into this year's meet as one of the favorites. The Belles are ranked 10th in the Great Lakes region in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's preseason poll. Bauters said the unprecedented ranking has energized the team and heightened its expectations as it looks to compete in the MIAA.

"We have a wonderful, talented group of women on the team this year, and I think [the ranking] has just heightened our awareness of what is possible to achieve this season as a group," Bauters said. "I would definitely love to see that ranking hold as long as possible."

In order to defend their ranking, the Belles will rely on a core group of six seniors, led by 2010 All-MIAA honoree Julia Kenney, and seek contributions from a large incoming class of five freshman runners. Bauters said she is looking forward to seeing the team's mix of experience and youth, and she expects to see a variety of different names scoring points for the Belles.

"We have a great mix of new team members and veterans who came back ready to train hard," Bauters said. "I think there is going to be a lot of changes in our scoring members throughout the season, as we possess the depth we were lacking last year. It's going to be a fun season."

Saint Mary's will open its season at the Wabash Hokum Karem in Crawfordsville, Ind., on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

Contact Brian Hartnett at