Story by Lindsay Hillstrom, Reporter
On Friday, November 19, the Aquinas men’s and women’s cross country teams competed in the NAIA Cross Country National Championships, which were held in Vancouver, Washington. The women’s team finished 10th with a combined total score of 400 points, and the men’s team finished 25th with 685 points. For the upperclassmen who have led Aquinas through a dominating 2021 season, the championship offered an exciting opportunity to compete against other top runners from across the nation.
The women’s cross country team was led by seniors Maggie Whitney and Hannah Adler, who placed 46th and 83rd respectively. “When it matters most, I know my team has my back and can rise to the challenge,” Adler said prior to the competition. “Our ranking from the season has helped us secure a spot at the national meet, but it is not where we intend to finish! The season is not over yet and we’re all determined to show AQ what we’ve got left.”
As a fifth-year senior, Adler put on a Saints uniform for the last time at the national meet. “I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to compete alongside some of the best teammates,” she reflected. “Each year the team changes slightly, but the attitude and effort each group puts forward is always remarkable.”
The men’s cross country team also had a strong showing, with junior Ben Hylen placing 79th and senior Clayton Jones placing 147th in the NAIA Championships. Hylen expressed confidence heading into the meet. “As a team we’ve been really strong overall, and our top group has stayed pretty healthy in the face of plenty of rough races and this long semester,” he stated. “I know each and every man on this team has the will to push through all the pain and realize they’ve got another gear or two within them, and all they’ve got to do is want it bad enough.”
Jones echoed these sentiments, stating, “These guys are all great and have the ability to be even better than the previous teams with both leadership and running. We have been very consistent this year. When someone is having an off day, there is another guy going above and beyond to get the job done.” Jones also acknowledged the impact that his coaches, teammates, and alumni have had on him. “It is all about attitude and effort, and I use that to hopefully leave my legacy as someone the team will have fond memories of–just like all the alumni I have met and who have done the same.”
Prior to nationals, Head Coach Michael Wojciakowski correctly predicted a strong finish from both the men’s and women’s teams. “I am looking for us to match the level of performance we have shown all year,” he said. “We executed well throughout the season and that’s why we are here.”