By: Tony Miller
It was 26 degrees with wind gusting to 20 miles per hour when the gun sounded to begin the NAIA national cross-country meet on Nov. 23. To say that most people wouldn’t choose to run in those conditions is an understatement; to declare the weather a detriment to performance would be another.
At least one Maple Leaf appeared to be unfettered by the weather, as Ryan Smith, a first-year, turned in the fastest national meet time in Goshen history. Smith finished 63rd, traversing the eight kilometer (4.97 mile) course in 25 minutes, 34.27 seconds. His time was the sixth fastest in school history, the third fastest by a first-year, and his fourth sub-26 minute finish. Smith is the first Maple Leaf to finish under 26:00 four times in the same season; only Justin Gillette, a 2005 graduate, has gone under that milestone more times in a career. “[I] thought it was my best race of the year,” Smith told GoLeafs.net. “Even though I ran faster earlier in the year, considering the conditions, I think I raced very well.” Smith finished 24 seconds away from All-American honors; individual champion Eric Avila of Southern Oregon, who finished in 24:02, led the All-Americans. Just as he was at the conference meet two weeks before, Smith was the second-fastest Crossroads League runner, trailing Spring Arbor’s Kyle Anderson, who was tenth in 24:48.29. Team champion Oklahoma City University finished with 206 points; Crossroads League champion Indiana Wesleyan was 21st with 556 team points.