Not uncommon for these days, there was uncertainty about whether there would be a full season of athletics this year at Taylor, but as the spring semester winds down, every varsity sport was able to compete in a mostly full season.
The unique nature of the 2020-21 athletic year brought many unique and memorable moments from the Trojans. So, as a refresher, here were the top five moments and stories from the year in Taylor Athletics.
Which Sport is Playing When?
Football in the spring? Fall sports playing full seasons and then waiting for national championships until the spring?
Both happened, and the unusual scheduling affected nearly every team. COVID-19 caused cancellations and postponements across the board. Some teams had significant portions of their schedule cancelled — football’s final three games were “No Contests” due to the pandemic.
Still, gratitude for being able to play shined through.
“The opportunity to get back and be together and play. I know all of our athletes are going to be incredibly excited about that,” said Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Kyle Gould in an article for The Echo.
Silent Night Canceled
For the first time since the late 1980s, the final home basketball game before finals wasn’t celebrated with pajamas or costumes, and for the first time since 1997, Silent Night did not take place.
After an announcement in chapel that Silent Night would indeed take place despite COVID-19, the historic and beloved tradition was cancelled a little over a week before the game.
“The game will not be rescheduled,” a story on taylortrojans.com read.
Cross Country Dominance
There’s a common theme with the top-3 moments from this year: running.
Less of an individual moment and more of a year-long story, the men’s and women’s cross country teams continued their run of success, and made history along the way.
The women’s team won their eighth-consecutive Crossroads League Championship and finished No. 3 in the NAIA National Championships. The men’s team suffered a narrow defeat and finished No. 2 in the Crossroads League Championship, but rebounded in a big way in the spring (more on that, later).
The programs made history as the first Taylor men’s and women’s sport to be ranked No.1 nationally simultaneously, as both spent time at the top of the national polls in the fall.
Relay Team wins National Championship
In almost any other year, a national championship would be the top story and moment for an athletic season.
The 4x800 relay team of juniors Abby Brennan, Giovanna Domene, Corinne O’Leary and sophomore Brooke Studnicki broke their own school record and won the indoor NAIA Women’s 4x800 race in a convincing fashion with a time of 9:18.25.
The margin of five seconds over the second-place team allowed the team to chase after their own record.
“After that, we weren’t really competing against the other teams, it was, ‘Let’s just try to get the school record at this point,’” O’Leary said in a story with The Echo.
Men’s Cross Country National Championship
Easily the biggest story from the year so far, the Taylor men’s cross country team didn’t just make running-history, they made school history. While both the men’s and women’s cross country programs have enjoyed a long history of success, neither had been able to crack through and win a national championship — until this spring.
The championship was Taylor’s first team national championship, across any sport.
Head Coach Quinn White took home numerous awards for his coaching throughout the unusual season (nationals were in spring after a fall season), and the team was named the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s “National Scholar Team of the Year.”
“The cross country program has had such excellent tradition under a variety of coaches and athletes. To bring home a title is to honor God, the current runners, past runners/coaches, and our university,” White said in an article with The Echo.
Honorable Mentions: Competitive cheer completes first season, baseball starts 20-0 at home, women’s golf wins four fall tournaments, track and field sees new records set, women’s basketball increases home win-streak to 30, men’s golf wins Crossroads League.