Taylor’s cross country teams ended their seasons with both placing in the top 10 at the NAIA National Championship on Nov. 22 in Vancouver, Wash.
Thirty-seven men’s and women’s teams competed at nationals. Of the 37, Taylor’s men’s team placed 2nd, while the women’s team placed 6th. Taylor received 2nd place overall due to both teams’ combined scores.
The fastest runner for the men’s team was junior Daniel Gerber with a 7th place finish and a time of 25:05.9. This was Gerber’s second year competing in the national tournament.
Running an 8K in under 25 minutes has been a highlight of Gerber’s season, which has given him confidence for the upcoming track season, he said.
“I am excited to run even faster times on the track,” Gerber said.
For the women’s team, the fastest runner was junior Sara Harden who took 5th place with a time of 17:51.9. Winning fifth place gave her confidence to keep it moving into indoor and outdoor track season this spring, Harden said.
“I placed fifth which was really cool, I’ve been an All-American every year and have more confidence to improve,” Harden said.
According to Harden, this season was the first year both teams were together under Head Coach Quinn White. Harden believes the teams’ success is due to the effectiveness of White’s training regimen.
Harden also attributed the team’s success to their relationships with each other. She believes this made the overall experience great, especially the trip to Nationals which highly enjoyed.
In addition to their placings, five Trojans won the All-American award, which are given to runners who place in the top 30 at Nationals.
Gerber, junior Josh Roth and senior Hunter Smith from the men’s team along with Harden and junior Livy Schroder from the women’s team received All-American awards.
Harden is the first runner in the history of the women’s program to win the All-American award three times.
This was Gerber, Smith and Roth’s first time receiving the award.
“(The National Championship was) a great celebration of Taylor cross country,” White said.
Both Gerber and Harden are already looking forward to next season. Even though a number of seniors are graduating, Harden believes the team will remain strong because all of the top runners will still be around next season.
The men’s team will lose the following seniors: Seth Harden, Connor Legge, Shauntis Lewis, Reid Otto and Hunter Smith. The women’s team will lose: Taylor Bluemel, Naomi Noyes, Megan Harrison and Maddie Weeden.
“We’ll have a pretty strong team next year, we’re returning a lot of our top runners and next year we’ll have an opportunity to place higher than we’ve ever placed,” Harden said.