By Alyssa Richardson
The men’s cross counry team practices at the Richard L. Jantz Stadium.
(Alyssa Richardson/Collegian photographer)
After a 21 point victory over College of Saint Mary and Friends University on Nov. 3, men’s cross country reclaimed the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference championship title.
Following last season’s disappointing second place finish in the conference championship, ending the team’s 31 year reign, the Builder’s goal for this season was to return the title to Winfield.
Jim Helmer, head coach, is proud of what his team has accomplished so far this season. “It felt really good this year to get back on top. They are great gentlemen and ladies and I was glad they got to reap the benefits of all their hard work,” said Helmer.
As a result of winning the conference championship title, the men’s cross country team received an automatic berth into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Championship held in Vancouver, WA.
The NAIA National Championship will take place on Nov. 17. The women’s 5,000 meter race starts at 10:30 a.m. followed by the men’s 8,000 meter race at 11:45 a.m.
Last season, due to the team’s high national ranking, they qualified for the national championship and placed 18th out of 32 teams. This season the team is setting their sights higher.
“Our team is capable of finishing in the top ten if we’re healthy and run like we have throughout the season,” said Helmer.
The last Southwestern men’s cross country team that placed in the top ten at Nationals was over ten years ago but this school’s cross country program holds the highest number of top ten finishes out of the other current NAIA schools with 11 times.
Colton McNinch, biochemistry junior, has qualified for nationals for all three of his years so far and holds the same expectations for the upcoming Nationals race. “The goal is to become a top ten team, but even more so possibly a top five team,” McNinch said.
Builder cross country will be facing stiff competition in Vancouver, going up against 32 teams. “25 of the best teams in the country will be there,” Helmer said.
Along with the stiff competition that a national race brings, the weather will also play a factor in how well the team performs. “There is a lot more rain, so the course can be muddy,” said McNinch.
The team experienced wet conditions in three meets this season, so they have competed in harsh conditions already.
In preparation for the upcoming race Coach Helmer keeps the training consistent as what the team has the rest of the season. “Overall we stick with the same plan because the familiarity with it and the routine the team is used to,” said Helmer.
For Frank Adelman, psychology senior, the end of his collegiate running career is bittersweet. “It’s bittersweet being my last season. But it means a lot to get to go to nationals,” Adelman said.
Competing at the national level is no new experience for Adelman, who has qualified for nationals all four of his years at Southwestern. “You want to maintain thought process and consistency throughout the season, but in the back of your mind you know it’s a bigger field,” said Adelman.
For the returning Builder runners, they have previously competed on this same course that will host the national race again this year. The race will take place at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
The women’s cross country team fell two points short of claiming their KCAC championship title against Friends University. Sydnee Nelson, biochemistry senior, placed 3rd individually at the conference meet which qualified her to compete at nationals.
The team will fly out of Oklahoma City, OK early in the morning on Nov. 15 and return on Nov. 18.
Alyssa Richardson is a sophomore majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.