On Nov. 19, Taylor Cross Country concluded another successful season at the NAIA National Championship meet in Vancouver, Washington.
Going into the national race, both teams were ranked fourth in the NAIA. Three lady Trojans finished in the top 40 runners, earning All-American honors and leading the team to a fourth-place finish overall with 164 points. The men likewise had three runners earn All-American status, helping the team to an eleventh-place finish overall.
“The ladies ran a great race. To podium three of the last four years is very special,” said Head Coach Quinn White. “Abbey Brennan made some outstanding improvements in her running and mindset. From never running at xc nationals to getting 6th overall is quite an accomplishment.”
Like White said, senior Abbey Brennan led the way for the MadDawgs in Vancouver. She finished her collegiate career with a bang, coming in 6th place overall with a time of 18:23.7.
Next for the Trojans was senior Giovanna Domene, coming in just thirteen seconds after her teammate. She secured her best ever national finish of 22nd with a time of 18:46.8.
The following two finishers were sophomores Ahna VanderWall and Mollie Gamble, finishing in 37th and 44th respectively. VanderWall crossed the line in 18:58.3 while Gamble finished in 19:04.7. The final scoring runner for the lady trojans was junior Brooke Studnicki with a time of 19:36.2.
Junior Madeline Purdom came in sixth for the team with a time of 19:46.1, followed just ten seconds later by freshman Audrey Brinkruff with a time of 19:56.2. Both runners were competing in their first national championship for Taylor.
White was quite proud of the women’s team and their performance this season.
“The MadDawgs had two big highlights this year,” he said. “The first was their ninth consecutive Crossroads league title (a new league record), and the other is their podium finish. They were consistent all season and ended with excellence.”
The men’s race had a slightly different storyline this year.
“Unfortunately, the men had an off day as a whole,” said White. “However, to have an off day and still place 11th shows how talented this team is.”
Senior Daniel Gerber concluded an impressive collegiate career with a 12th place finish. His 8K time of 25:22.7 was good enough to collect his third All-American nod in as many years.
Seniors Derek Van Prooyen and Alex Helmuth came next, earning 30th and 32nd with times of 25:48.3 and 25:49.0 respectively. Both seniors capped off impressive Taylor careers with their second All-American honors.
More than a minute passed before Taylor’s next runner crossed the line, as senior Conor White finished in 26:59.1. White was followed by junior Nathan Streitmatter, rounding out Taylor’s scoring runners with a time of 27:20.3.
The final two Trojan runners across the line were sophomore Ben Eiffert in 27:27.8 and junior Josh Harden in 27:38.4.
While the men’s team didn’t finish as well as they had hoped, this race doesn’t take away from a stellar legacy for the seven graduating seniors. This group includes Gerber, Helmuth, Van Prooyen, White, Zach Hoekstra, Nathan Holst, and Blake Montgomery.
“This senior class of Jarheads have accomplished so much the last four years: a national title, a combined national title, a runner-up finish at nationals, and the league title,” Quinn White said. “This part of their legacy is like no other athletic team in Taylor history. I don’t think many people truly know all they have accomplished, and how special it really is.”