Cross country teams conclude first NCAA season

The men’s and women’s cross country teams concluded its inaugural seasons in NCAA Division II at the GLIAC Championships in Marquette, Michigan, on Oct. 21. The men’s team finished 11 of 11 while the women’s team finished nine of 12.

The best performance of the season for both teams was the PNW XC Classic in Westville on Sep. 8, with the men finishing two of five and the women one of four. Austin Warner, head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams, said nine of 12 men’s runners set personal best times and seven of eight women’s runners did the same this season.

“As a first-year program in a conference as competitive as the GLIAC, our overall goal was to see as many personal bests for both the men’s and women’s teams and to show that we have what it takes to continue competing at the Division II level,” Warner said.

Jennifer Crague, freshman runner for the women’s team, said she is excited to continue competing in NCAA Division II.

“We are running against very talented women, and I think it will help prepare us for when we are able to compete at regionals and have the opportunity to qualify for nationals in two years. The competition is amazing, and it is only going to make us faster,” Crague said.

Agreeing with Crague, Warner said that while the teams have seen and will continue to see an increase in competition from the NCAA to the NAIA, it will bring out the best in his runners.

“As we heighten our expectations to match those of other Division II programs, our athletes continue to rise to the challenge,” Warner said.

Crague said some of the most memorable moments of the season was when the team volunteered at the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 6 and when the runners participated in a theme week.

“We had a lot of fun setting up the water stations and passing out the cups to the runners. It was cool to see so many people love running as much as we do in one place,” Crague said. “The week before our last meet, our coaches picked a theme for each day for us to dress up and get in the spirit of our last week together. One day was USA day, and another was Halloween costume day, so it was kind of like a mini spirit week for our team.”

Looking ahead to next season, Warner said his goals are to increase roster sizes, improve the teams’ overall place in the conference and continue to show growth as a Division II program.

“As we continue to build on a culture of hard work and continue to bring in student-athletes who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, we will see steady growth and improvement in the NCAA Division II ranks,” Warner said.