By Chucky Blackmore, Culture Editor
Image courtesy of Andris Visockis
The AQ men and women’s cross country teams wrapped up their 2016 season on Saturday, Nov. 19, at the NAIA Cross Country Championships in Elsah, IL. Both teams worked extensively throughout the season to secure the opportunity to race at Nationals, and that hard work ultimately paid off.
Following the WHAC Champions held at Riverside Park on Nov. 5, the men’s team had to patiently await approval to see if they would get the chance to run at Nationals. After three strenuous days of anticipation, they were given permission to take part in the final race of the season. Of the 37 teams that participated in the NAIA Championships, the men secured a 22nd place finish.
A trio of Saints fought through the terrain and masses of fellow runners to close the gap. Senior Tommy Willet, sophomore Joey Ciaravino, and freshman Arik Lafave were the first three Saints to sail across the finish line and file through the chute, respectively. Willet placed 35th overall with a personal record 8K time of 25:19, and the other Saints were close behind. Junior Adam Gizowski and freshman Tyler Champenoy honorably rounded out the scoring for the men’s team, resulting in a combined 491 points. Southern Oregon took first place at the NAIA Championships, with a score of 122 points.
Likewise, the women’s team showed exemplary team cooperation at Nationals. The day before the big race, the Saints took to the course to establish confidence for the last race of the season. Paige Boldt, the Saints’ assistant coach, shared insight about the course.
“I know our ladies will excel on this course because they have been well trained not only for running smart up hill but also attacking the downhills,” stated Boldt. “Their determination and passion to ‘Run As One’ will carry them through any course that comes their way.”
Boldt’s prior words couldn’t have been truer. The Saints brought home a fourth place trophy that day, matching their 2015 championship race. Tallying 180 points, the women’s performance ties the highest ever finish by an Aquinas College women’s athletic team at Nationals.
The women’s practice and race performances throughout the season have shown much consistency, proving that their team success depends on the dedication of every runner.
Sophomore Melissa Winchester was the first Saint to cross the finish line, placing 21st overall with a personal record 5K time of 17:43. Senior Kathy Middaugh closed the gap and finished 29th overall, with a personal record of 17:50. Juniors Adri Sigafoose and Molly Peregrine, as well as freshman Alexis Miller, all contributed to the fourth place win as well. One of the most remarkable accomplishments achieved from the women’s race that day was the breaking of the team time record by 2:04.
As the men and women’s cross country teams celebrate their success at Nationals, runners prepare for the indoor track season, which will be underway in no time. The initial indoor meet that will prepare and gauge where athletes are currently is set to take place on Friday, Dec. 9 in the Alksnis Athletic Building. It will be an inter-squad meet between AQ track and field athletes.
Don’t forget to congratulate the men and women’s cross country teams on a strong finish at Nationals, and be sure to tune in to the upcoming indoor track season, where Saints will keep their feet on the track and their hearts on the finish line.