Cross country crosses the finish line at nationals

Mikaela Van Soelen— Staff Writer

In the midst of a busy track season, a number of long-distanced athletes put aside their track spikes for the weekend and traded them for cross country shoes. Due to the pandemic the NAIA National Championships Cross Country Meet at Seminole Valley in Cedar Rapids, was pushed from the fall semester to April 9.

The long-awaited country meet began at 10:30am starting with the women’s race. The men followed at 11:30am. The men’s team ended 8th overall, and the women landed in 13th. 

The women’s team included: Taylor Anema, Jessica Kampman, Eden Winslow, Anika Homan, Brenna Tolkamp, Margaret Myskowski, and Mary Kate Postma. The men’s team included: Davis Tebben, Eric Steiger, Jacob Vander Plaats, Nic Veldhorst, Franklin Reinders, Joe Anderson and Thaniel Schroeder.

“It might not have been the performance we wanted this year,” Steiger said, “but it brough us together as a team and made us hungrier for a fantastic season next year.” 

Some performance highlights included Joe Anderson at 49th, Nic Veldhorst at 61st, and Jacob Vander Plaats at 66th from the men’s team. The women’s team had an incredible race by Jessica Kampman, finishing 31st overall, earning her All-American Honors. Anika Homan at 54th and Eden Winslow at 70th and the rest of the pack followed close behind, nearly all finishing in sub 20:00.

“Covid definitely affected the national meet,” coach Nate Wolf said. “In some ways it helped, it gave some of the younger runners an opportunity to gain more training. In other ways, it hindered athletes that were prepared to compete in November, but were injured come April.” 

These athletes have shown incredible discipline in their training since this fall. There are few people who can keep up the endurance and mileage these men and women were maintaining, which shows their love for the sport and support for their teammates. 

After seeing such high performances at track indoor conference and nationals, it is understandable to see how the athletes might have struggled in the quick transition to cross-country training. Similar to other sports taking place on campus this year, the athletes faced some interesting adjustments in training due to the pandemic. 

“We had to adjust from the comfort of climate controlled indoor tracks to the rainy, windy, and muddy courses of cross country,” Steiger said. “Coach Wolf orchestrated the transition through specific workouts to mimic the race immediately after the end of indoor season.” 

Although some of the athletes were looking forward to some more encouraging performances, they left feeling blessed with the chance to compete and thankful for strong teammates that continued to root for them.

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