Crossroads News
Wed, Nov. 20, 2013 - [Cross Country]

Hartford City, IN—The NAIA Men's and Women's Cross Country National Championship will take place Saturday, November 23rd at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kansas.  The men's 8-kilometer race will begin at 10:30 am CST followed by the women's 5-kilometer race at 11:45 am CST. 

The Crossroads League has two institutions represented in the Cross Country National Championships. Taylor University will compete in the NAIA Women's Cross Country National Championship and Indiana Wesleyan University will compete in the NAIA Men's Cross Country National Championship. Taylor finished the season ranked No. 4 in the coaches' top 25 poll while Indiana Wesleyan finished the season receiving votes.

Taylor University enters the national tournament having won the Crossroads League Championship. TU also finished 1st in the Great Lakes Invitational, placed 2nd in the NAIA Pre-Nationals and Olivet Nazarene Invitational, and 3rd in the Indiana Intercollegiate race.

                        

Taylor's had much success this season and Quinn White, Taylor's Head Women's Cross Country Coach, highlighted a few moments for the Trojans this season. "We have been very excited about our progress this season and our focus from the start has been to finish strong. Way back in August we looked deeply at a book titled "One Word that will Change Your Life", and as an outcome of that book we adopted the word "finish" as our team word for this season. So everything we have done so far this season was all to help us be prepared for both the league and potentially national meet," commented White.

The Trojans have already ran the course they will compete on in nationals as they finished 2nd in the NAIA Pre-Nationals race. "The NAIA Preview Meet was not only a catalyst for our season, but it was also a catalyst for our program. We had a very strong race in Kansas and we were excited about the opportunities it granted us. We were able to compete against ranked team, compete on the national course, and firsthand experience prepping for a race 11 hours away," said White.

Indiana Wesleyan heads to Lawrence, Kansas following a 1st place finish at the Crossroads League Championship. IWU also won the Lancer Invitational back in September and also finished in the top 15 of three other races this fall.

                         

Indiana Wesleyan's success has come with a young group. John Foss, IWU's Head Men's Cross Country Coach, commented, "We had a very young season with 3 freshmen and 4 sophomores in our top 7. The schedule was unique with huge invitational meets at GRIAK (University of Minnesota), Pre-Nationals in Lawrence, Kansas, and the Great Lakes Invitational (Grand Rapids, MI). I believe those meets helped this young team mature very quickly and gave us the presence of mind to hold off three very talented and experiences teams in the Crossroads League Meet."

Foss added, "It is not often that you lose 8 seniors (5 of our top 6) from a league championship team and still able to defend the title. I am very impressed with these young men."

TU's No. 4 ranking is the highest in school history. White said, "We have not put a lot of weight into the ranking but we smiled when we heard it. We have had a lot of wonderful outcomes and knew we were blessed with a lot of talent. We have worked hard in practice and meets to maximize that talent."

IWU's had a few surprises throughout the season. Coach Foss commented, "Our three freshmen have all surprised. Jacob Reinking has adapted to the training program, an 8K race, and new team and coach. Parker Williams missed his senior cross country season in high school due to injuries and has been consistently in our top 3 and emerging as one of the top young runners in our league. Nathan Gerrick was a great prospect for us and has been able to contribute right away."

Foss added, "John Wilson, a sophomore, continues to develop and after running consistently in our top 5 last year, has become our top runner and stepped into that role beautifully."

Heading into the NAIA National Championship race in Lawrence, Kansas, both White and Foss have expectations for their teams.

White said, "Our team word is "finish" and we are blessed to have one more opportunity to bring that word to life. We will not go into this meet changing strategies or getting all hyped-up that we need to race differently to create our desired outcome. Instead we will run this meet in a manner of business as usual."

                        

White added, "We will attempt to race like we have raced all season and let the outcome take care of itself. We feel if we can stay relaxed, be confident, trust in the Lord, and incorporate "finish" then the outcome will be positive."

Foss stated, "After finishing 16th a year ago, we do realize that we don't have the up-front strength and experience to repeat that type of performance. We do hope to see a season best time for everyone on the team and to compete hard."

Foss added, "Hopefully we can finish in the top 25 as a team. We are feeling good about having already competed on the national course. That should help us."

                       

White concluded, "Our team has also focused on several Bible verses this season—Philippians 2:1-5 and Psalms 16:8. The verses in Philippians have historically shaped our cross country team over the year. Our primary focus with these verses is "one in spirit and unity". The verse in Psalms was brought to our attention by two team members prior to the NAIA Preview Meet. The verse states, "I am always aware of the Lord's presence; He is near, and nothing can shake me." Therefore we plan to go into nationals with the following motto: Fun, Fearless, Faith, and Finish."

For complete coverage of the NAIA Women's Cross Country National Championship click here.

For compete coverage of the NAIA Men's Cross Country National Championship click here.

To follow the NAIA Cross Country Championships on Facebook click here.