The Goshen College men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled to the E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park in Kentucky this past weekend to run in the 20th Annual Louisville Cross Country Classic.Competing in the Blue Race division, season-best and career-best records were shattered by numerous GC athletes and the teams returned home in high spirits.
Head coach Rustin Nyce said, “Louisville is always a big opportunity for us to compete against many of the best regional teams.”
“In the past, we have felt like we had already run our best races, but we are now starting to put some good things together,” he said. “Heading home, I continue to feel optimistic.”
The women’s team outran Dalton State College, who is ranked #20 nationally, and ran the fastest team time since 2006, while the men ran their second-fastest team time in over two full seasons.
Both teams also had a runner finish in the top 25 of their respective sides, with sophomore Summer Cooper coming in 24th and third-year Nelson Kemboi coming in sixth.
Nyce said, “Summer [Cooper] has been dealing with some slight injuries and hasn’t felt her best.”
“She always continues to work hard and believes in what she can do,” he said. “It was nice to see her have a solid race at this point in the season.”
Cooper was able to shave off 3 seconds from her season-opening time and cover the 3.11-mile course in just 18 minutes, 58.6 seconds. That was good for the 34th-fastest time in program history and 10th-fastest by a sophomore.
Cooper said, “Leading up to the race, I was excited and stressed at the same time.”
“Races, for me, mean that I get another opportunity to compete and push myself to my limits,” she said. “I was really happy to finally get back into the 18’s and run a good time, but I know I have more to give.”
Kemboi bested his career PR by more than twelve seconds, completing the 4.97-mile course in 24 minutes, 52.6 seconds, which happened to qualify him as the third-fastest time in program history.
Nyce said, “As far as Nelson [Kemboi], you can tell when he’s ready.”
“He doesn’t say a lot, but what he says and how he acts in practice reveals his level of commitment to the race,” he said.
Kemboi said, “This sport is all about your mindset and racing smart.”
“I was aiming for the school record but I missed it by almost 10 seconds,” he said. “They always say to aim high and you will eventually fall somewhere near to, and I believe in this.”
“Having the third-fastest time is important to me, though that isn’t my goal,” Kemboi added. “My goal attainment will come when I see myself holding that school record which I believe will come true with the help of my teammates and our coach.”
Most importantly, other upperclassmen and underclassmen from both programs set personal and season records, contributing heavily in the two team’s success.
Nyce said, “We believe that we are able to do great things and commit to doing them.”
“Sometimes, it is easy to identify the athletes with the fastest performances and miss the heart and commitment of everyone,” he said. “The team makes each other better with their support, accountability and ownership over the goals.”
“I love what I get to do and I love coaching this team,” Nyce said.