The women’s cross-country team reigns top five in the entire Great Northwest Athletic Conference after a freezing championship race, while the men’s team consistently gets closer to the top 10 every year.
The Falcons raced last Saturday, Nov. 17, in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Championship. The women’s team came up big by scoring the fourth best out of 28 teams and having junior Kate Lilly finish with the tenth best time of the six-kilometer race. The Falcon men were not as fortunate, the team scored middle of the pack at No. 15 out of 28 teams. The best racer finished the 10-kilometer race at No. 61.
“I’m extremely proud of us, but I also know we have more in us to give. I’m so excited to see what’s in store for us at this national meet,” Kaylee Mitchell said.
Despite the No. 4 team finish for the women, it was not enough to push the team past the NCAA Division II Championship and on to the NCAA National Championship. The team would have to be top three to automatically advance. However, landing the No. 4 spot enabled the team to be potentially selected to join the NCAA National Championship.
The NCAA National Championship had 10 available spots for teams to compete in the 34-team cross-country race, and because of SPU’s close to top three performance, they were able to snag one.
Mitchell said she believes the Falcons are highly motivated and ready to race if selected.
Lilly is an example of the Falcons motivation and readiness. Lilly raced her fasted six-kilometer race of her entire career, while also ending under 22 minutes for the first time. Lilly finished No. 10 with a time of 21:34.11.
“It felt great to finally put a time to my name that reflects the level of fitness I’m at right now, and even better to share the accomplishment with Kaylee Mitchell and Katherine Walter,” Lilly said.
Lilly was followed up by teammates Mitchell at 21:43.05, No. 16, and Katherine Walter at 21:43.93, No. 19.
“I didn’t race as well as I had wanted to and really needed to, but my other teammates had some amazing performances which made up for it and I’m very proud of them,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell also mentioned the cold temperature that affected her during the meet, “It was hard on the lungs and it made it more difficult to breathe.”
Lilly’s body responded differently to the freezing temperatures, “The temperature really helped me out, actually. I guess it’s counterintuitive, but the cold made it much more difficult to become focused on any pain or fatigue as the race progressed. I really enjoyed racing on snow too, If anything, I was expecting the surface to slow everyone’s times down, so I was just having fun trying to conquer the frost without worrying about hitting certain paces.
The NCAA National Championship takes place Saturday, Dec. 1, at 9:15 a.m.
On the other side of the cross-country course, the men’s cross-country team did not pull together a performance that would advance them into the NCAA National Championship or qualify them for any available team berths.
Despite the team score, the men’s team had several 10-kilometer personal records broken.
Sophomore Colin Boutin finished with a career best 32:35.88, while first-year Colby Otero, first-year Brayden Schultz and sophomore Shad Galloway all finished with new personal records.