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Point Lookout, MO:  The Running Eagles of Alice Lloyd College, under the guidance of Coach Brandon Arnold, traveled to Missouri for the NCCAA Division II National Cross Country Championship meet held in Point Lookout.  This year’s host was College of the Ozarks.

Ty Reagan and Dakota Owens assemble boxes for Operation Christmas Child

Ty Reagan and Dakota Owens assemble boxes for Operation Christmas Child

The first morning the squad was given the opportunity to take part in the NCCAA‘s annual community service project. For this year’s Christian Service, all athletes packed shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Each student-athlete provided a child’s gift that would fit in a shoebox. In addition, the participants helped to cover shipping of the boxes.  Freshman Ty Reagan (Jamestown, TN) spoke glowingly about the project. “We were tasked with packing boxes with toys to send to needy children. Since my freshman year in high school, I had participated in Operation Christmas Child and was disappointed thinking I would be unable to do

that anymore. Imagine my surprise when I saw what our Christian Service project would be!  All of the athletes worked with different runners from other schools and everyone also wrote individual letters to place in the boxes for the kids. We had to put the boxes together ourselves, but luckily, I was familiar with the way to do it which allowed me to help some of my fellow competitors.”  Reagan added, “After the boxes were filled, we got together as a group to pray for the children they were going to. It was an awesome experience and I am thankful I was able to share it with my new friends.”

John Driskill receives the Wheeler Award at NCCAA DII Cross Country Nationals

John Driskill

That night, the team attended the annual NCCAA Cross Country Banquet. Senior John Driskill (Jackson, KY) was the recipient of the prestigious Wheeler Award, the top honor a male cross country runner can receive by the NCCAA. This award was established in order to enhance excellence in Christian cross country competition and to perpetuate the Christian philosophy and faith as exemplified through Christ-like cross country participation in NCCAA member institutions. The soft-spoken Driskill was completely caught off guard by this honor. “Honestly, I was shocked when my name was announced, and it’s an honor to receive this award. I really owe it to my family, as well as my cross country family who have helped me reach where I am at today. Most importantly, I give all glory to God, because everything I do is for him.’ In addition, Driskill, as well as senior Lady Eagle Brittney Buttrey (Isom, KY) and junior runner Kacey Troutt (Whitesburg, KY) were recognized as ‘NCCAA Scholar-Athletes’ during the banquet for maintaining a GPA of at least a 3.4.

The Eagles arrived at the race site the following morning. Nerves were high when they arrived, but everything settled once the day began. The participants were greeted by sun with temperatures in the low 30’s. The men’s 8K race started at 10:00 am, and the women’s 5K race followed at 11:00 am.

The location was an entirely grass covered course lined with hills, and Mother Nature made things challenging for the runners. “The course was the toughest we have seen all season,” said freshman Jacob Bush (Big Stone Gap, TN). “It was made worse because the sun was thawing the frost on the ground which made it very muddy.”

ALC Men's Cross Country Team at Nationals

ALC Men’s Cross Country Team

The men’s 8k race at the Bobcat Cross Country Course featured 14 DI and DII teams with over 115 competitors. Bob Jones University (BJU) claimed its third straight DII Men’s Cross Country National Championship as the Bruins had 5 runners place in the top 8 and finished with 26 points. Finishing in second place was Ozark Christian College with 45 points, while Alice Lloyd College had 70 points to place third.
Eli Connatser of Ozark Christian won the individual title over 47 runners with a time of 26:51.12. Oak Hills Christian College’s Billy Freyholtz took second in a time of 27:18.53. The battle for spots 3-5 was epic as the three finishers were separated by nine-tenths of a second. At the wire, Joe Patchen of BJU finished third in 28:21.29, teammate Caleb Davis was fourth in 28:22.12, and ALC’s Ryan Morris (Lee, VA) was fifth in 28:22.19.

The other members of the Eagles all managed solid times despite the difficult conditions. Freshman Alex Lewis (Harlan, KY) finished the course in 13h place, just missing a time below 30:00 minutes, as he finished in 30:03. Junior Noah Stevenson (Wise, VA) as well as Ty Reagan, fought hard and both finished in the top twenty as they crossed the line in 31:42 and 31:44 respectively.  The Eagles fifth runner was John Driskill, completing the run in 32:45. Additionally, the freshmen duo of Dakota Owens (Big Stone Gap, VA) and Jacob Bush gave every ounce of energy as well as they finished in times of 34:09 and 36:14.

ALC Women's Cross Country Team at Nationals

ALC Men’s Cross Country Team

The women’s 5k race at the Bobcat Cross Country Course featured 17 DI and DII teams with over 110 competitors. The Moody Bible Institute Archers captured its sixth straight DII Women’s Cross Country National Championship as they totaled 33 points, finishing with 4 runners in the top 10. Alice Lloyd College finished second with 44 points, and Bob Jones University took third with 55 points.

Kimberly Buskirk of Grace Christian University won the individual title over 47 runners with a time of 20:12.96. Moody Bible’s Maddy Boyle took second in a time of 20:20.57, while teammate Emi Minnich finished in 20:21.28 to place third. Alice Lloyd had the next three runners as senior Brittney Buttrey, junior Kacey Troutt, and junior Rachel McCoy (Hurley, VA) would finish shortly after in times of 20:36, 20:51, and 21:05. Buttrey’s time broke her own school record which she had previously set in the RSC Conference Tournament. This is remarkable given the conditions of the course. Sophomore Morgan Arthur (Raceland, KY) would cross the line in 22:19 while freshman Brooke Vanover (Big Stone Gap, VA) was next with a time of 23:34. The final runners were freshman Cheyenne Tolliver (New Tazewell, TN) and senior Cheyenne Boggs, (Grayson, KY) who finished with times of 25:38 and 26:42 respectively.

After the awards ceremony had concluded, a thrilled Coach Brandon Arnold spoke highly of his two squads. “I am extremely proud of both teams. The men have battled through an injury and sickness-riddled season to finish in the top three once again which shows just how mentally tough this group is. We are still a relatively young squad which makes me excited for next season. The women also dealt with injuries at nationals, but fought through the adversity to finish as the national runner-up, which is the highest placement any squad from our school has ever achieved.” The coach added, “This collection of men and women are a very special group of young people and I am honored to be their coach. They truly demonstrate the family atmosphere we want to have with all of our teams.”

The Alice Lloyd cross country program is definitely on the rise. The men’s roster will remain virtually the same going into next year as Driskill and Zach Templeton are the lone seniors. The women will lose Boggs, Buttrey, and Troutt but, Coach Arnold plans to bring in a strong recruiting class to help build on the success. The Eagles are taking a short break from running to recover, and then they will start work on the road to the 2019 Nationals.