The Mount Mercy men earned an automatic berth in the NAIA national meet with a runner-up finish at Saturday’s Heart of America Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships hosted by Baker (Kan.) at Baldwin City Golf Course. The Mustang women, led by national qualifiers Alexa Zamora and Molly Pruett, finished third.
Courtesy Mustangs Athletics, click here! Feature photo: Mt Mercy Men’s Cross Country 2017 ©Mustangs Athletics
James Lindstrom (26:29) and Colton Forster (26:39) finished sixth and ninth in the 8K, respectively, to lead the Mount Mercy men’s squad. Both were named to the Heart of America all-conference team. Rounding out the top seven for the Mustangs were Cameron Steffens (23rd/27:31), Aaron Golding (24th/27:34), Michael Marshall (32nd/27:57), Jacob Blackmon (37th/28:14), and Chase Kress (82nd/31:10).
“Our men’s team fed off the women’s performance and took care of business,” said Head Coach Tad Hulst. “They fought for each other the whole race and met their goal of getting to nationals as a group.”
Missouri Valley had five individuals in the top nine while cruising to the team championship with 22 points. The Vikings and Mustangs (94 pts.) earned the Heart’s automatic berths in the NAIA Cross Country National Championships on Nov. 18 in Fort Vancouver, Wash. The rest of the top five on Saturday included Benedictine (Kan.) (105 pts.), Baker (106 pts.) and Central Methodist (Mo.) (110 pts.).
Zamora and Pruett finished back-to-back in the 5K to make the women’s all-conference team. Both are headed back to the national meet, Pruett for the fourth time. Zamora crossed the finish line eighth in 19:39, while Pruett was ninth in 19:40. Mount Mercy’s top seven also included McKenna Johnson (19th/20:03), Vanessa Cortes (21st/20:09), Kathryn Vander Poel (27th/20:31), Taylor Skala (35th/20:49), and Jaelynn Folkers (38th/20:55).
“Our women’s team stepped up big-time today,” Hulst said. “By far, they ran their best race of the season at the perfect time as a squad.”
With four runners in the top seven, MidAmerica Nazarene easily claimed the women’s team title with 29 points. The Pioneers were followed by Missouri Valley (68 pts.), which earned the league’s second automatic spot in the national championships. Mount Mercy (84 pts.), Benedictine (Kan.) (110 pts.), and Baker (139 pts.) rounded out the top five.
Men’s All-Conference Team:
Paulino Sanchez (Missouri Valley), Derek Wilson (Missouri Valley), Shane Burns (Evangel), Victor Reveles (Missouri Valley), Greg Flores (Baker), James Lindstrom (Mount Mercy), Demarkous Nunnally (Missouri Valley), Jose Ruiz (Missouri Valley), Colton Forster (Mount Mercy), Liam Barnsby (Baker).
Men’s Honorable Mention:
Carlos Guzman (MidAmerica Nazarene), Dakota Myers (MidAmerica Nazarene), Joseph Linder (Baker), Austin Johnson (Missouri Valley), Joseph Barnes (Benedictine).
Women’s All-Conference Team:
Bethany Brown (MidAmerica Nazarene), Erin Krohn (MidAmerica Nazarene), Katherine Dillard (Benedictine), Kaylee Shanley (MidAmerica Nazarene), Lizeth Luciano (Missouri Valley), Melanie Cozzi (Benedictine), Rachel White (MidAmerica Nazarene), Alexa Zamora (Mount Mercy), Molly Pruett (Mount Mercy), Kirari Furumoto (Missouri Valley).
Women’s Honorable Mention:
Kami Tabor (Graceland), Lisa Sauter (Central Methodist), Lizbeth Luciano (Missouri Valley), Leslie Perona (Evangel), Kendra Alsup (MidAmerica Nazarene).