NAIA Cross Country Nationals
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It was a cold morning at the North Farm Cross Country Course in Elsah, Illinois. Temperatures were topping out at only 45 degrees, and a biting wind caused the temperature to seem even colder. It was in these conditions, at 8:30 a.m., that the NAIA Cross Country Championships got under way.
The women were first to toe the line. Thirty-six teams lined up at the start, totalling 334 runners. The women’s race began with a blistering first mile pace of 5:21. Senior Emily Williams was the first to reach the one-mile split for the Warriors, clocking in at 5:48. The field began to spread out over a huge margin and the Warriors struggled to remain in contact with one another and work as a group. Senior Kelly Collins led the Warriors through two miles, with Willams four places behind her. Coming into the finish, Westmont was able to find its final gears. Finishing first for the Warriors was senior Emily Williams with a time of 18:25, followed by senior Kelly Collins (18:31) for five kilometers. Senior Olivia Wood came in third for Westmont (19:15), followed by freshman Maia Halverson, (19:17). Junior Dominique Delgado rounded out the top five (19:19). The women’s spread was 58 seconds.
“Emily Williams and Kelly Collins ran strong races, but this effort wasn’t closely matched by the rest of the team,” said Head Coach Russell Smelley. “In a field of more than 300 runners, a twenty-second gap includes an opponent runner every second between teammates.”
The men’s race went off at 9:20 a.m., with 36 teams and 331 athletes crowding the starting line. The race went out with a fast first mile, with the leader rolling through in 4:52. Junior Kyle Fredrickson was the first Warrior to come through the one mile mark, and did so in 4:59. The hot pace continued into the second mile. Freshman Michael Oldach came through two miles first for Westmont in 10:04, followed three seconds behind by Fredrickson. Oldach again held the lead for the Warriors in mile three, running through in 15:24 followed by sophomore Blake Fonda in 15:33. As the race came through the midway point, the pace continued to heat up until the mad dash for the finish line. At the finish line, it was sophomore Blake Fonda finishing first for the Warriors in a time of 25:49 for eight kilometers. Junior Kyle Fredrickson was second for Westmont (26:10), and junior Thomas Hamlin was third (26:16). Junior Roberto Bazan rolled through the finish line in fourth for the Warriors (26:29), and sophomore David Peterson rounded out Westmont’s scoring with a time of 26:35. The men’s team had a 54 second scoring spread.
“Blake Fonda worked up steadily in the field to lead the Warriors,” said Smelley. “He had a focused race and was able to finish ahead of the GSAC (Golden State Athletic Conference) champion from The Master’s.”
Overall, the women placed 20th and the men placed 23rd at Nationals. “The race was a learning experience for our team,” said Fonda. “Our ranking at eight in the nation wasn’t upheld, and I believe the mental focus to to handle the challenge of such a huge field was not as it should have been. We will take this disappointment and use it to fuel our strategy and efforts for our next season, where we hope to be a top four team. Our top seven men’s runners, as well as many other talented runners not at nationals, are returning next year. The future is bright.”