NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Kristabel Doebel-Hickok and Jenner Kizer have paced the young Commodore cross country teams so far this season. Both have finished first or second for Vanderbilt in all three races - the first meets of their collegiate careers.
Both runners produced solid performances on Oct. 4 at the Greater Louisville Classic, where Kristabel recorded a personal best 17:49.24 and a top-15 finish in a field of over 260 racers. Kizer, who entered the season hoping to run the 8k in 26 minutes, crossed the timeline below that mark at 25:42.37, the second fastest time on the team.
"Kristabel is still learning but each race has shown more and more progress," Steve, Keith, VU head coach, said. "I don't think we have seen her best effort yet but if she continues to believe in her fitness and uses that confidence to totally throw herself into the race, Kristabel will see huge rewards.
"The challenge is to commit and push yourself outside of a certain comfort level. This is what we are working on and hope to see in her races."
Doebel-Hickok, a redshirt freshman from Marina del Rey, Calif., got started in cross country in middle school after her P.E. teacher asked her to join the team. She liked the coach, and decided she'd give it a try. She started having fun with the sport, and realized she was good at it.
She really got serious about cross country during her junior year of high school. Seeing other runners train harder and perform better, Kristabel realized that she had the potential to succeed, she just needed to put in the work. This epiphany has stayed with her, and she continues to push herself.
"I like to work hard. I like to train hard, sometimes a little bit too hard," Doebel-Hickok said. "Every day, whether it's workout day or recovery day, is pretty much the same to me. Every day there's little things that you can do to be the best that you can."
Kizer, a freshman from Fort Worth, Texas, started running in elementary school. His father would run a lot, so Jenner took off after him, participating in different road races along the way before joining a cross country team in eighth grade. The first race he won changed his perspective about his abilities, and he knew that he could compete in the sport, which freed up his running style.
"Jenner has had a very solid freshman season to date," Keith remarked about Kizer's performance this season. "He seems to get the most out of practice but still has something extra for the races. You tend to see this more out of upperclassmen, and I think that this quality has led to some very consistent races.
"One other plus with Jenner is that he has made a rather seamless transition from his 3-mile race distance in high school to the collegiate distance of five to six miles."
Doebel-Hickok and Kizer will take their experience from their first three meets, along with their drive and ability, into the Pre-National meet this weekend at Indiana State in Terre Haute. The women will compete in the 6k white race at 11:35 a.m. with 42 teams and over 300 racers, while the men will run in the 8k open race at 2:05 p.m.
"I think this team has a really bright future, and we're still really young, and I think we're all improving," Doebel-Hickok said about the VU women's team. "We have really awesome coaches, and I think we can go really far."
"I think we have the potential to do really well," Kizer added about the men's team. "I think that we have a great set of guys, and if we work together and run with each other we'll do very well."