The Friends University Cross Country teams competed in the 56th annual NAIA men's and 32nd annual women's cross country national championships that took place Saturday, November 19th, at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Washington. They came away with history making performances. The women placed fifth as a team and the men finished 16th as a team. Their combined point total earned them 3rd place in the national and a spot on the podium.
Senior Jordan Arnold
became the first female all American in cross country school history with a ninth place finish in a time of 17:57. This is Arnold's third trip to nationals as a Falcon. Her best prior finish was 32nd
place in 2009.
Sophomore Kaitlyn Belisle
was the next Falcon to cross the finish line in 36th
place with a time of 18:39, just missing the top 30 all American honor. Senior Karissa Cominator
also just missed being all American, placing 39th
in 18:41. This was Cominator's third trip to nationals as a Falcons and her previous best finish was 120th
. Senior Cecilia Burley
for the Falcons in 18:55 and sophomore Connie Collins
rounded out their team scoring with a 119th
place finish in 19:36.
Leading the way for the men was senior Javier Ceja
as he placed 28th
in 24:48 and earned his second straight all American honors. After sitting out last year's cross country season and missing most of the season this year with illness, senior Dan Neidlinger
came away with his best national race of his career, placing 78th
in a personal best time of 25:33. Neidlinger has run at nationals four times and this was his best finish by 68 places. Sophomore Cameron Sprague
also ran a personal best time of 25:39 and placed 88th
, 60 spots better than he placed last year. Freshman Brock Nooney
in 26:04, his second best race of the season. Senior Geovanni Popoca
rounded out the team scoring with a 218th
place finish in 26:44. Sophomore Tim Wescott
had his best race of the season, running 26:51.
"I was very happy with how the season went and with how it ended, with both programs up on the podium as the third best combined program in the nation," Coach Brad Peterson
said. "Our women's team had an outstanding race and were just 20 points away from third. Jordan Arnold
ran the race of her life and is one of the best runners and competitors I have ever been around. She has stuck with it through a lot of hardships and it paid off today. I was so happy that she and Karissa Cominator
went out on top with their best races after everything they have done for our program. They are tremendous runners but more importantly great people. Our men's team ran well for the most part. Just a couple guys had off races and that was the difference between us finishing top 5 and where we actually finished. I am especially proud of Dan Neidlinger
for fighting back from illness to help the team out so greatly. He and Matt Ditzler
were the cornerstones of this program and we would never have been here without them."