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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo
Women's XC2.jpg

To the finish: Maddawgs make a statement

Women's XC place third in Kentucky meet

The No. 1 Taylor women’s cross-country team toed the line on Saturday, Sept. 30, after traveling to Kentucky to compete at the Louisville Cross Country Classic. Among 41 teams from across the NAIA, NCAA Division I and II, Taylor placed third.

While this was the first time since the 2021 NAIA Championships the team had not won a meet, they finished with 133 points and a team average of 18:31.80. The women competed in the blue race, which head coach Quinn White believes set them up well for the National meet in November. 

“We tried to focus on getting out strong, we tried to focus on packing and then we really tried to be mindful in the middle,” White said. 

White expressed he is excited to see how the team grows, develops, makes mistakes and bounces back from them while still staying hungry as the season continues. 

Sophomore and All-American Noel VanderWall added that the team has an opportunity to grow from this race. 

“It wasn’t a perfect day, but we learned a lot from it,” she said. “We need to get out better and to be strong and have conviction that we can run at the front. I think we all finished really well, which was good.” 

Vanderwall finished second for the team at 10th place overall with a time of 18:19.60 for the 5K. This was the team’s first 5K of the season, due to the transition from the NAIA from a 5K to a 6K for women’s races. 

Junior and All-American Audrey Brinkruff also raced well for the Maddawgs. She led the team with a 17:58.0 finish and placed fourth overall out of 383 runners. Brinkruff was named Crossroads League Runner of the Week for the second time this season after her performance. 

Brinkruff shared that she was challenged mentally and physically in the race by another runner in the last mile. 

“My first mile was really fast,” she said. “But in the last mile, there was this girl right on my shoulder the whole [time]. All last mile, I was like ‘I can’t let her pass me again!’ That was running through my mind because I was having to make sure she didn’t get ahead of me so I could hopefully out-kick her in the end. I ended up being able to do that, so that was exciting, but that last mile was a good mental mile.”

This race provided many ways that Brinkruff can grow from and reflect on. Brinkruff added that the progression of the season gives opportunities to grow with her team. 

“Every race is an opportunity to run with my teammates, and I’m just excited to keep doing that, and have some good races, as well as make the front pack bigger,” Brinkruff said. “That’s been exciting to see in practices because some people are getting up in packs that they normally wouldn’t be in. They’re getting faster and getting used to that in races.”  

The NAIA leaders will next compete at the Blazing Tiger NAIA Classic in Omaha, Nebraska, on Oct. 21. It will be their last race before the Crossroads League Championships, hosted by Taylor, on Nov. 3.