Facing a muddy track, tough competition and cold weather the Taylor men’s cross country team won the Great Lakes Challenge with the women’s team coming in fourth.
There is no cross country meet in the NAIA as competitive as the Great Lakes Challenge, excluding nationals. On the men’s side there were nine top 25 teams that ran. For women, six out of the top ten teams in the country ran.
Taylor’s men’s team beat No. 6 Indiana Wesleyan on their way to the win. Junior Daniel Gerber led the way and placed fifth with a time of 24:58.50.
“We went into this race as a team,” Gerber said. “This was a good indication and a big win.”
Gerber was followed by junior Josh Roth who took eighth with a time of 25:12.20 and senior Hunter Smith who placed 10th with a time of 25:20.00. All top five of Taylor’s runners who scored were in the top 26 of the race, ensuring the strong team victory.
Head Coach Quinn White felt that the team had run free, relaxed and competitive throughout the race. Through their determination and lack of pressure when running many were able to set their personal records, two of which were freshmen Nathan Streitmatter and Josh Harden.
Looking to the rest of the season, the men’s Crossroads League Championship is coming up on Nov. 9 at 10:30 a.m. Taylor has gone quite a long time without a conference championship. The Trojans find themselves ranked No. 4 in the NAIA as they prepare for the event.
“We want to surprise ourselves — we have a chance to win.” Gerber said.
The women’s team, however, has won the Crossroads League Championship the past 6 years. Placing in the top five at the Great Lakes Challenge was one more step toward repeating that this year.
Junior Sarah Harden won the championship with a time of 18:04.0 and was named Crossroads League Female Runner of the Week for the second time this season. Harden started from behind in the race and progressively made her way up to the front to place first overall.
“This is the most competitive race in this season and this is our first chance to see what it will be like at the national scale,” Harden said. “We just came into the race with no pressure, there was nothing to lose.”
The No. 7 women’s team is barely ranked ahead of No. 10 Indiana Wesleyan. The Trojans are looking forward to a competitive conference meet all around.
“It’s going to be very competitive to hang on to the league title. They have won six and are excited about the challenge to possibly get another one,” White said.
The Trojans have been dealing with injuries throughout the season and are hoping to be close to full strength by the conference meet.
The women’s Crossroads League Championships will feature all 10 of the teams in the league on Saturday Nov. 9 at 11:45 in South Bend. Taylor is currently ranked highest at No. 7, with No. 10 Indiana Wesleyan and No. 21 Huntington both in the top 25 providing a very competitive meet for the Trojans.