The Goshen College men’s cross country team ended its season on a historic note, making their first ever team appearance at the NAIA National Championship in Kansas on Saturday, Nov. 22.

The Maple Leafs ran at Rim Rock Farm in Kansas.  Over 300 runners participated in the National Championship, where the Maple Leafs finished 27th overall with a total of 713 points.

The first two GC runners to finish the race were seniors: Jordan Smeltzer, from New Paris, Ind., and Moses Kaelo, from Narok, Kenya. They ended up with a time of 26:41:70, and it was determined that Kaelo was the first to finish after using video review.

The next ones to finish were Danny Klink, a sophomore who finished with a time of 27:30.20; Luke Kauffman, a sophomore with a time of 27:31.40; and Lucas Harnish, a junior who ran in at 27:36.50. After this trio of runners, Tim Lehman, a junior, crossed the line at 27:52.20 followed by sophomore Isaiah Friesen, with a time of 28:55.

“The team overall ran very well on one of the most challenging courses in the country,” Friesen said. “Individually, the nationals race itself was one of the worst races I’ve ever had. I had to run through a leg injury, which hampered my stride considerably.”

Kaelo also gave his opinion about the race.

“It was great to compete with the best runners in the country,” he said. “This opportunity makes you appreciate the many days of practice and hard work throughout the season.”

After finishing the season, Kaelo said that what made the season outstanding was “the hard work and dedication that we’ve put in through the season and the team chemistry and encouragement.”

Kaelo gave credit to coach Yoder because he was “very encouraging, strategic and success oriented.”

About the season, Friesen said, “This was an excellent season both for me personally and for us as a team. We achieved the goal of qualifying a men’s team for nationals for the first time in school history, despite competing in one of the toughest conferences in the NAIA.”

His personal season was “excellent because I was thrilled to see improved times and to be able to race well in every meet through the course of a very long season.”

Their next goal is to compete with the track and field team in the spring season.

Kaelo already started to think about his last season as a Maple Leaf. “I have to confirm with Coach Doug, but this season I really want to try something real fast, like the 800m.”

Many of the cross country team members will join the track and field for the spring season, which will start on Jan. 23 with its first meet in Findlay, Ohio.