For the first time in Taylor University history, both the men’s and the women’s cross-country teams walked away with first place at the Midwest XC Challenge.
Usually held in Grand Rapids, Michigan under the name of the “Great Lakes Invite”, the meet was forced to change location to Upland due to the usual hosts not having a cross-country season due to reasons relating to COVID-19. Nevertheless, both teams did exceedingly well. The men’s team finished first out of ten teams, and the women’s team finished first out of fourteen teams.
The women’s team had two runners, seniors Livy Schroder and Sarah Harden, finish in the top five and seven runners in the top 30. Harden broke the school record with her 5K time of 17:36.3, which landed her in second place at the event. This is the third first-place finish out of four meets for the women’s team this season.
“It was really exciting, especially since it was both on the guys and the girls side that we got the win,” Schroder said. “It was something that going into the race we kind of had our eyes set on. So it was really exciting just to have that happen.”
As for the men’s team, their showing was just as strong. Just like the women’s team, they also placed two runners in the top five, as well as seven in the top 30. Standout runners for them were junior Alex Helmuth and senior Luke Rovenstine, who placed third and fourth respectively. The men’s team has now placed first in two of its four meets.
Despite less teams being able to show up to the meet than in previous years, the competition level was still extremely high. There were six other ranked teams at the meet for both the men’s and the women’s team. In the face of heavy competition, both teams were able to win first place by comfortable margin.
This pair of victories speaks to the success of both cross-country programs during this season. Both teams are having very strong seasons, with both teams ranked first nationally. They are the first male and female programs of the same sport to both simultaneously rank first nationally in the history of Taylor athletics.
“I've never had a scenario like this in any of my coaching, so it's really something quite special.” Head Coach Quinn White said. “The key is we have great young women and great young men who have bought into the program. They run with conviction, they strive to be better, and it just makes my job a lot easier when there's 100% buy in like that.”
Both teams are expecting to put together a strong showing at nationals, and with their current success it is safe to say that such is expected. This year, there is an additional challenge with nationals coming in the spring. This will require runners to remain disciplined and stay in shape throughout winter break and J-term so that they are still able to give their best effort come springtime.
“It's a whole new micro cycle of training,” said White.
There is also always a chance that nationals don’t happen this spring if COVID-19 continues to cause problems through the spring. COVID-19 has still been affecting teams and events all throughout sports.
Regardless of what the spring brings, these two teams are hitting their stride right as the Crossroads League Championships approach and already have a lot to be proud of this season.
“We have this thing we call ‘one word’,” White said, “So we pray, ‘Lord, what's one word that will just have a great impact on our season on our lives, on our schooling?’ The word this year was thankful, and honestly, we're just very thankful that we've had an opportunity to have these meets so many schools don't. We try to take advantage of every one, knowing that it potentially could be our last.”