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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Echo
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Trojan squads face challenging CL winter

Crossroads League finals bring new challenges

The snow is melting, the sun is shining and the sounds of baseballs and softballs are heard from Winterholter Field and Gudakunst Field.

While the season is just beginning on the baseball field, the basketball and indoor track and field seasons are coming to a close.

This second of three series of conference tournaments here at Taylor will be the most difficult overall with some of the toughest opponents of the year on the docket. Below is the breakdown for each sport this year.

Men’s Basketball (10-18, 5-13):

Despite flirting with the bottom half of the table during a brutal February, the Trojans pulled through and finished the year as the eighth seed in the Crossroads League, keeping Mount Vernon Nazarene out of the tournament.

For their success, Taylor’s CL Tournament opponent was their toughest of the season, the Grace Lancers (28-1). Grace isn’t just the best team in the Crossroads League, but they’re also ranked No. 1 in the NAIA with their only losses coming from Huntington (a game where they made one three-pointer) and a preseason loss to Purdue — yes, the same Purdue Boilermakers who are ranked No. 2 in the NCAA.

The Trojans defense played well and held Grace to 75 points when the Lancers had averaged 91 points per game, but points came few and far between for Taylor as the offense shot 39.3% from the field in a 75-58 loss. Juniors Kaden Fuhrmann and Anton Webb led the team in points with 19 and 15, respectively.

Women’s Basketball (12-17, 7-11):

The Trojans closed out the regular season with a hot-and-cold February, winning three of their final six games. Their biggest wins came against Bethel on Senior Night, Goshen and a thrilling 57-52 win over the Grace Lancers at home.

Taylor entered the Crossroads League tournament as the seventh seed and faced the No. 4 Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (26-3). IWU only collected two losses between November and February, both coming from the hands of No. 2 Marian, and they brought their frustrations to the tournament, taking down Taylor 114-62. 

Junior guard Ava Henson was a standout down the stretch for Taylor, averaging 24.8 points per game in the final four games while senior forward Taylor Westgate averaged 13 points and 11.3 rebounds per game over the same period.

No. 8 Women’s Indoor Track and Field:

After floating between ranks 10-20 for most of the season, an overwhelmingly dominant performance by the entire indoor track and field team propelled the Trojans into the nation’s top ten.

TU finished right behind No. 6 Marian in second place overall at the Crossroads League Championships winning five events and placing in nine, with 14 athletes claiming All-Crossroads League awards. One of the highlights of the weekend was senior Mollie Gamble and junior Audrey Brinkruff finishing first and second in the 5,000 meters, with both breaking the previous Taylor program record with times of 17:18.98 (Gamble) and 17:18:93 (Brinkruff).

Taylor will be sending 10 athletes this week to the NAIA Championships in seven events hoping to bring home some hardware between February 29 and March 2.

(View Mallory Dotson’s article for more on the women’s track team)

Men’s Indoor Track and Field:

The men’s track and field team has been saving their best performances of the year for last as they left the Crossroads League tournament in third place overall. 

The men’s side placed in the 4x800-meter relay, the 800-meters, the pole vault and the high jump with sophomore Ryan Hanak taking first in the 3,000-meters, beating second-place finisher Austin Liepe from Huntington by one one-hundredth of a second and Jake Thompson winning the long jump.

Taylor will be sending 11 athletes competing in five events to the NAIA Championships between February 29 and March 2.

(View Alex Boothby’s article for more on the men’s track team)