Coach's Corner - Cross Country - Nationals
2009 NAIA Nationals – Race Summary
Fort Vancouver, WA
Saturday, November 21, 2009
We have returned from the Portland, OR trip with the XC runners who competed at NAIA nationals. We quickly learned that at the top end within NAIA, the best runners could easily be competitive with the best of the NCAA Division I competition, and the top teams in NAIA are easily as good as the best teams in the NCAA. I would be interested to learn how many of the 600+ runners are international student-athletes, attending NAIA schools on full athletic scholarships, for an opportunity to get an education and compete collegiately with the hopes of garnering a professional running career.
This national competition was truly a top end nationals, and much faster than the St. Lawrence’s, SUNY Geneseo’s and SUNY Cortland’s ~ all top ranked NCAA D-III colleges; and we (the Sunrise Conference athletes) were quite out of our league. Comparing apples to apples, our three runners (Kyle Dash, Jessie Gardner and Ashley Rokjer) did well compared to the other three Sunrise Conference runners; so it wasn't like the Paul Smith’s College athletes fell apart once we arrived in Portland.
Women’s Race: Jessie Gardner finished with a time of 22:09 and placing in 291st overall. Ashley Rokjer finished the incredibly muddy course in 23:10, to place 316th overall. Shelly Hansen of UMPI placed 318th with a time of 23:11. Justyna Mudy of Shorter College won the event in 17:30, averaging 5:38 per mile. Cal State San Marcos won the women’s team title, averaging 19:00 over the muddy course, followed by Biola and then Malone for third. Of the 32 teams, St. Louis Pharmacy placed last, averaging 22:41. Taking the course conditions into account, our top ranked University of Maine – Presque Isle would have probably finished behind SLP.
Men’s Race: On the men’s side, Silas Kisorio won the 8K for Oklahoma Christian College in 24:23, while the top 40 finished in under 26:00 in extremely muddy/slow conditions. There is no doubt that we would have seen several of the top runners finish in under 24 minutes on this course if it wasn’t spongy mud! Kyle led the other two Sunrise Conference runners throughout the race, only to have Justin Richardson pass him on the final hill. Richardson placed 299th in a time of 29:25, with Kyle placing 300th in 29:26. Justin Fereshetian placed 303rd in a time of 29:45 to round out the Sunrise Conference athletes. There were 323 total competitors in the men’s 8K on this course which has only been used for national championship events over the past twenty years. Malone College won for the men, averaging 25:18 for their top five runners. It appears that if we had brought our men’s team to represent the Sunrise Conference, we probably would have finished behind Holy Names, which finished in 32nd place, averaging 30:10.
The conditions were quite muddy; as it apparently rains (almost daily) along the Pacific coast, and although the race organizers laid out a wonderful course, and kept the competitors from using the trail in their training upon arrival, they ran adjacent to the course outside the barrier fencing, so on Friday, we could quickly see that the soft earth under the nice grass was much like a saturated sponge, and the runners would sink in with each step. Imagine 600 runners, covering the same course as fast as they can, and covering the same loop 4 times... and sinking in several inches over any of the downhill slopes, the tight turns, and the short hill climbs.
A few of the competitors had one of their shoes get sucked off, and they kept going as fast as they could. Race officials grabbed the shoes from the mud and returned them to the finish area, as each competitor had a computer chip zip tied to their shoelaces, and it was important that each competitor turned in both chips soon after they finished.
Race Weather: There was a major storm blowing off the Pacific coast, and despite the ominous forecast, for the most part, it was relatively dry throughout the racing. It