The Eagles of Alice Lloyd traveled north this weekend for the NCCAA National Cross Country Championship meet held in Houghton, New York. The road to nationals started early Thursday morning. The team stopped in Hershey, Pennsylvania for the night. While in Hershey, Brittney Buttrey, John Driskill, and Jacob Medley all went out for a run through downtown Hershey, and they were all captivated by the beauty and scent of the city. This is what sophomore Driskill had to say about running in Pennsylvania, “It was beautiful running through the city. It was so much different from a normal run around campus. It was cool being able to see traffic, golf courses, and the original Hershey Chocolate factory. The 3 of us really took that run in more for enjoyment rather than for practice. There was one moment when we took a “running selfie”, and some random people called us out for it. That was pretty funny to say the least.”
The following morning the team traveled to Wellsville, New York where they stayed the night before the national meet. Once they were settled in, they the left for Houghton College where they were able to preview the national course that they would be running the following day. During their run they encountered snow and freezing temperatures. Despite the weather the team was able get a good idea of how the course was going to play out.
“I loved the course layout.” said Medley. “It’s extremely flat, wide, and soft. Of all the courses I’ve ran in my running career this is easily my favorite.”
The team left from the course, and went to the dinner banquet that the NCCAA hosted for the runners. During the banquet the NCCAA also took up the donations of canned foods that the runners brought to contribute to the service project that they were involved in. This year the service project was directed towards stocking the shelves of a local food pantry. The NCCAA felt like this was the best service project that the 500 plus athletes could be involved in because they were able to make a big impact due to their large numbers. Lady Eagle Shiloh Jekel was recognized as a Scholar Athlete during the banquet as well.
The Eagles arrived at the course the following morning in freezing temperatures and snow-topped terrain. Nerves were high when they arrived, but everything settled once the day began. The women’s race started at 10 am, and the men’s race followed at 11:00 am. The weather was still cold, and a light snow was taking place as the gun went off for both races.
In the women’s Division 2 meet, Buttrey ran an impressive 22:30 placing 17th in the 5K. “I felt good during the race, but I didn’t run my best time because I didn’t adjust well to the cold. It was freezing out there today! I prefer running in much warmer temperatures.”
Coming in directly behind Buttrey was teammate Shiloh Jekel who ran a personal best of 22:34 to finish 18th overall. Jekel adjusted very well to the running conditions and said that running in the cold seemed to make breathing easier. Considering her solid showing, she was obviously correct. Coach Brandon Arnold had this to say about her performance.
“Shiloh has run a personal record every time that she has lined up for a race. She’s had a very successful and progressive season.”
Coming in first on the men’s team was Medley who finished 10th place overall with a new personal record of 29 minutes and 36 seconds. This beat his most recent best time by 1 minute and 30 seconds. “Today couldn’t have played out any better. I love running in these kinds of conditions. Back at home we get a lot of snow and cold temperatures because of the location near the Ohio River. I hate running in hot weather, so it was nice being in the cold today. Apart from the weather being ideal, the racing environment was good, too. Being able to race with the Division 1 runners really amped up the competition. It set me up for a fast first mile (5:20), the first mile then set me up for a fast 5k mark time (somewhere in the 17:40’s), and then that ultimately set me up for my finishing time of 29:36. I came into the race seeded at 14th or 15th, but I knew that I could place better than that. My first two 8k’s were ran on little experience of the distance. I was well prepared for the national race, and I was ready to run a fast time. I owe everything I did today to God though. None of this would’ve happened without Him carrying me through the season. Having a great coach, teammates, and support from the school helped a lot, too. Alice Lloyd has really opened up my running shell, and I love it.”
Driskill was the second Eagle to cross the line coming in 30th place with a new personal best of 32:46. This was Driskill’s first season ever running, and he improved his 8K time by almost 5 minutes from the beginning of the season. He has brought a lot to the Alice Lloyd cross country program, and has a great future ahead of him in running. Next for the Eagles was Andrew Stidham who placed 44th with a time of 35:04. Close behind Stidham in 47th place was Zach Templeton known as the “glue” of the team. He ran a new personal best with a time of 37:03. Broderick Moore and Caleb Mills brought the team home with times of 41:41, and 43:33. They came in together placing 54th and 55th overall.
Coach Arnold stated after the race and season came to an end, “To say that this year has been a good one is an understatement. Coming from our first practice, where the majority of our runners walked during our trial 8k, to nationals has been phenomenal. Having Jacob place in the top 10 at this level of competition, and seeing most everyone run new personal best times in our last race of the season really goes to show how far we’ve come along this year. This group has worked hard since day one. It’s great to know that we’re a young team, too. Zach has ran cross country before, and this is only Jacob’s second season of cross country; everyone else on the team is completely new to the sport. Taking a young and inexperienced team to the national stage really goes to show what they’re capable of doing. This team has a lot of success ahead of them.”
The Alice Lloyd cross country program is definitely a program on the rise. The roster will remain the same going into next year since they won’t be graduating any runners, and Coach Arnold plans to bring in a strong recruiting class to help build on the success of the program. The Eagles are taking a break off of running to allow themselves to recover, and then they will start the 2016 Road to the Nationals.