Smith to nationals, Harnish all-conference after blustery league meet

Smith to nationals, Harnish all-conference after blustery league meet

By: Tony Miller

The Maple Leafs leave the starting line Saturday at the Crossroads League meet. Photo contributed by Quinn Brenneke

The wintry winds of Winona Lake may have slowed the Maple Leaf cross country team at the Crossroads League meet. But for at least one Leaf, the end of fall will persist for two more weeks.

Despite finishing in his slowest time of the year, covering the eight kilometer (4.97 mile) course in 26:12, Ryan Smith, a first-year, qualified for the NAIA national championship. That race will be held Nov. 23 in Lawrence, Kan.

While Smith was the Leafs’ only national qualifier, Goshen saw two runners finish in the top 15 and earn all-conference honors. In addition to Smith’s second-place finish, Lucas Harnish, a sophomore, was 13th in 27:28, missing the national cutoff by just 9.1 seconds. Isaiah Friesen, a first-year, and Daniel Zelaya, a junior, nearly made it a quartet of Goshen all-conference runners, with Friesen finishing two spots and 4.8 seconds off the podium and Zelaya one second behind him in 18th place.

With three runners in the top six, Indiana Wesleyan won the team competition with 47 points. Goshen was third with 71. On the women’s side, Taylor was team champion with 24 points, while the Leafs improved a spot from 2012 to take seventh with 183 points.

Mollie Nebel, a junior, led the Goshen women’s team with a 24th place finish in 19:49.7. The Leafs didn’t post any career or season best times, owing to a stiff breeze clocked at 17 miles per hour, but the women’s team made up for it in consistency. Goshen’s top three (Nebel; Ali Hochstetler, a junior; and Alli Beitler, a senior) finished eight positions and 44.7 seconds apart, while the top five were separated by less than 90 seconds and the top seven Leafs by less than two minutes.

In addition to Beitler, two more Leafs capped off their careers for the women: Michelle Espino finished 86th in 21:47.3, and Audrey Thill was 101st in 22:18.4. Men’s runners finishing their careers were Tijs Buskermolen, 96th in 30:55.8; Andrew Witkowski, 106th in 31:47.3, and Quinn Brenneke, 112th in 35:39.3.

The top ten Leaf men and seven of the nine Goshen women are eligible to return next fall. But before the squads return to fall practice as a more experienced team than they were a few months ago, the 2013 season has one more race. Smith is the 30th national qualifier in Goshen history, joined by 112 runners who qualified as part of a team and 96 more advancing individually, he will run in the NAIA national meet. Hosted at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence, Kan., that men’s race will begin at 11:30 a.m. a week from next Saturday.

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