By Steve Carpenter
Hutchinson CC Sports Information Director
While the Hutchinson Community College men captured plenty of headlines in 2018, the Blue Dragon women's team had its share of eye-popping performances.
The 2018 Blue Dragon women won their first-ever Jayhawk West championship, finished third in the region for the second-straight year and placed 12th at the NJCAA championships. All the while, the Hutch women were ranked in the NJCAA Top 10 throughout the season. Three runners from that team produced Top 25 all-time 5,000 meter time in Blue Dragon history.
Two of those runners return for fifth-year head coach Justin Riggs, whose season starts on Friday with the Terry Masterson Twilight Classic at Fun Valley.
"There are a lot of new people on the roster," Riggs said. "We graduated a lot of the major contributors, but I think we've added some key new contributors. We are just trying to find an identity."
The two runners who return from last season's conference championship team own the Nos. 1 and 3 all-time 5K times in program history.
Sophomore Lisayo Ewoi broke the 17-year Blue Dragon 5K record with a time of 18:29.1 at the Missouri Southern Stampede. In the latter stages of the 2018 season, Ewoi was injured and never regained her early-season form. She placed 116th at the NJCAA Championship.
Ranked as high as No. 6 last year, there was concern that the Blue Dragon team performance might suffer with Ewoi's injury. That's where Gabby Collins took over as Hutch's No. 1 runner.
Collins, a DeSoto, Kansas, product, posted the third-best 5K time in Hutchinson history with a time of 19:06.56, which was the second-fastest Blue Dragon time in a Region VI race. Collins finished eighth in the region and third in the conference.
Collins became an NJCAA Coaches All-American at the NJCAA Championships with a 33rd-place time of 20:31.6.
"I want to race again. It's been a while," Collins said.
With Collins and Ewoi, who is still nagged by injuries heading into the new season, a pair of other sophomores from Hutch's track team will figure into the team scoring in 2019.
Sheila Too didn't run cross country last season, but she broke the Hutchinson 10,000-meter record with a time of 42:11.32 at the 2019 Region VI Outdoor Championships. Christina Bruce competed on a pair of national qualifying Blue Dragon relays in both the indoor and outdoor national championships last season.
"I'm excited about this team," Collins said. "I can tell that this group really wants to do well. It's weird not having the girls who I ran with last year, not here now, but I really like this team."
"We've got work to do," Riggs said. "They want to do well, but we have a ways to go. That's OK at this time of the year."
After the Masterson Twilight, the Blue Dragons will compete at Missouri Southern on September 21, Emporia State on September 28, Fort Hays State on October 12 and the Region VI Championships on October 26 in Iola. The NJCAA Championships will be on Nov. 12 in Albuquerque, NM.