The NAIA Cross Country Nationals are tomorrow (Saturday, Nov. 21) in Charlotte, N.C., for the Red Raider men’s team, and they are fired up. This will be the team’s second consecutive national showing, and the team has their sights on being among the Top 15 in the nation, but it will not be easy. Last year, the Red Raiders were 21st overall, and some of the athletes had a tough time on the course. The men plan on bouncing back strong from last year’s showing and improving as much as possible.
“It’s been a lot of fun to see the improvement as a team from being sixth place as a team in the conference to being the best NAIA team in the GPAC and qualifying for nationals,” senior Caleb VanderBaan said. “There have been so many great people on this team that have run on this team and I’m glad that I could be a part of it for four years.”
Seven of last year’s Top 10 teams are returning, one of which being the returning national champions: Oklahoma City University. OCU, being ranked No. 1 going into Nationals, is currently on a two-year national championship streak and they don’t look like they are going to slow down. Last year, OCU was the first team since 1999 to be ranked No. 1 for the whole year and win. Returning with a vengeance this year is runner up, Southern Oregon, who doesn’t plan on seeing OCU take their trophy again. SU is ranked No. 2 and is looking to subtract one from that overall total. Though Olivet Nazarene finished third in the overall standings last year, they are ranked 10th this year, but not to be overlooked.
Aside from the Red Raider men, the GPAC will be represented very well. There are five teams total, both men and women, that qualified, and there are 10 individuals total. Morningside’s men and women qualified, Dordt’s women, who are just one spot outside of the Top 10, and Hastings’ women.
“We are all very excited and motivated to get down there and make some noise,” senior Kyle Anderson said.