Third-year LSU cross country coach Houston Franks applauded his first team’s eighth-place showing at the 2019 SEC championships after a predicted last-place finish.
The Tigers matched that eighth-place SEC finish during last season’s COVID-shortened year, but Franks was far less accepting. He believes his team’s underperformance in the conference championships will drive this year’s team, which returns all of their top runners from a year ago led by sophomore Davis Bove and senior Eric Coston.
“Last year, I wasn’t happy with eighth and I think we were better than that,” Franks said. “We could have been sixth or seventh. I didn’t think we had a very good conference meet. We didn’t execute it very well. Our men are going to be better. Where that puts us in the conference remains to be seen.”
Bove, a first-team All-Louisiana selection, was LSU’s top finisher in all four of its races last season. He topped the Tigers at the SEC championships with a 17th place (24 minutes, 32.6 seconds) followed by Coston in 34th (25:00.5).
Bove’s finish at the SEC event was the best for an LSU runner since 2007.
“He had a really good cross country season, he had an amazing indoor season, and he had a good outdoor season,” Franks said of Bove. “He and Eric are the two bell cows we’re expecting to pull the train.”
Coston was LSU’s second highest finisher in each of his four meets, but the Tigers also rely on their depth provided by a group of underclassmen.
Franks couldn’t underscore the importance of having Coston back for an additional year of eligibility.
“It’s huge to have him back,” Franks said. “If he stays healthy, I expect big things from him. Not only in cross country, but in track as well. His work ethic is unbelievable. He’s a vocal guy and brings leadership as well.”
Freshman Will Dart scored in all four meets he ran a year ago and was 47th at the SEC championships (25:10.4) followed by sophomores Jackson Martingayle who was 52nd (25:17.3), Cade Martin 75th (25.45.0) and Adam Wise 85th (26.05.6).
“They don’t come tougher,” Franks said of Dart. “He’s talented, but his biggest commodity he’s an old leather shoe. He’s as tough as nails.”
Both Wise and Martingayle enjoyed solid outdoor seasons in track with Wise ranking among the top on the team in the 3,000 (1st, 8:41.42), 1,500 (3rd, 3:55.00), 800 (4th, 1:54.28) and 5,000 (4th, 15:17.63), while Martingayle was first in the 10,000 (31:18.65), second in the 3,000 (8:47.13) and third in the 5,000 (15:07.30).
“Jackson was consistently our third or fourth guy last year,” Franks said. “Adam’s a tough kid. I expect him to up in the mix, top five for sure.”
Franks also signed the state’s top high school runners in Class 5A state champion and Gatorade Runner of the Year Dyllon Nimmers of Ruston and state runners-up Evan Pardo of St. Paul’s and Jack Wallace of Jesuit.
“They’ve all gotten so much better in the last year,” Franks said of his returning team members. “This team’s not going to be super deep, but we should be pretty solid.”
17 LSU Invitational at University Club
2 Chile Pepper Festival at Agri Park, Fayetteville, Ark.
16 Arturo Barrios Invitational at Watts Cross Country Course, Bryan-College Station, Texas
29 SEC Championships at Gans Creek Cross Country Course, Columbia, Mo.
12 NCAA South Central Regional at Bear Run Cross Country Course, Waco, Texas
20 NCAA Championships at Apalachee Regional Park, Tallahassee, Fla.