The women’s cross country team, fresh off two consecutive event wins, added to their dominant season by capturing the title Oct. 1 at the Louisville Cross Country Classic. Program history was rewritten, with the previous team time record being surpassed by 23 seconds and freshman Noel VanderWall setting an individual record time of 17:34.6.
In a 47-team field, the Trojans went head-to-head with nationally-ranked NAIA teams and several NCAA Division I and II programs. Their team time of 90:06 edged out Xavier (OH), a NCAA Division I school, by just over one minute (91:21) and was over three minutes ahead of the closest NAIA challenger, St. Francis (IL), with 93:33 to their credit.
Among the 15 runners competing for Taylor, 10 of them established new personal bests. The maximum allowed in the Blue division (10) ran and five additional Trojans ran in the Silver division. A few personal bests included senior Abbey Brennan, whose time of 17:53.7 earned seventh individually, and junior Ahna VanderWall, whose time of 17:55.3 took home 10th.
Overall, all 10 Trojans running in the Blue division finished in the top 30 percent of 419 competitors.
Quinn White, now at the midpoint of his 13th season as head coach, eclipsed a milestone of 1,200-career wins and the program passed 2,500 wins as well.
“Our bottom line is to prepare for nationals,” White said. “Everything has a direct or indirect impact on that meet. So, Louisville was part of the process. That race has given us true conviction that we can compete with any school in the NAIA.”
Noel VanderWall rode her program record time to a second-place showing behind Huntington’s Addy Wiley. With this in the books, VanderWall has top-three finishes in each of TU’s races this fall.
White said that VanderWall’s success has largely stemmed from being a part of a program that runs with each other and not against each other. He credited the whole team’s commitment to pushing each other as the reason for her running so relaxed and free.
“We talk a lot about not selling ourselves short, knowing that we can do big things,” VanderWall said. “We’ve been really intentional about focusing on nationals and not being scared of the idea that we can win.”
VanderWall also echoed White’s sentiment about running together, adding that they are concentrating on filtering individual results through the lens of ultimate success for the team.
Brennan has had an impactful campaign of her own, with top-ten finishes in each event, highlighted by a win at the Ray Bullock Invitational on Sep. 16. Her latest personal best in Louisville cements Brennan as the fifth fastest runner in program history.
“Honestly, I feel like it’s a testament first of all to God giving me that ability,” Brennan said. “I came into college running a 20-minute 5k and was able to drop over two minutes … I think (it’s) also a testament to Coach Q and just the program he’s created and the atmosphere
As a senior with only three meets remaining in her college career, Brennan said she wants to walk away feeling as if she left her best out there.
The No. 2-ranked team in the NAIA has only one more regular season event remaining before the Crossroads League Championships on Nov. 4. The Great Lakes Challenge in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Oct. 22 will be the Trojans last tune up before heading to Indianapolis for conference.
White said he expects the league championship to contain four or five other NAIA Coaches’ Top-25 ranked teams and looks forward to a competitive event.