Despite the rise in confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Goshen College athletic teams, the men’s and women’s cross country teams have continued their season as planned.

The men’s cross country team was off to an impressive start in the early portion of the season, finishing sixth of 18 teams at Indiana Wesleyan University’s Twilight Classic back on Sep. 11. First-year GC runner Nelson Kemboi nearly broke into the record books with an impressive time of 26:12 on the nearly five-mile course. 

To crack the top 50, Kemboi would need to hit 25:57.2.

After almost a month of inactivity due to cancellations and rescheduling, the men’s team was back on the course Oct. 10 at the Seminole Valley College Stampede in Cedar Rapids, IA, where they finished 11th out of 25 teams. 

The Maple Leafs’ average final run time was 27:50, with a final score of 324. The Maple Leafs finished with one runner inside the top fifty at 42nd place, closely followed by 55, 69, 71 and 87.

The Goshen women’s cross country team has fared well so far, finishing 12th of 18th at the IWU Twilight Classic. The women were able to compete in an additional meet, the Ray Bullock Invitational at Taylor University on Sept. 18, where they finished 7th of 14 teams.

The Maple Leafs success can partially be attributed to first-year star, Summer Cooper, who slashed more than a minute off of her first time at the Ray Bullock Invitational to finish the 3.11 mile course at 19:18.

But the first-year wasn’t done making a splash just yet, as nearly a month later at the women’s Seminole Valley Stampede, Cooper shaved off even more time, finishing with the fastest time by a Goshen College first-year since 2007 at 18 minutes, 59 seconds. Cooper finished 16th overall in the race. 

Cooper is excited about her early success. 

“It feels great to be doing well early on, and our coach says that he’s working on getting better runners, so the success is going to just keep going and going,” Cooper said.

According to Cooper, an intensified training regimen and motivation from her fellow teammates has been an important factor in her early success as a runner. One workout in particular has stood out as a difficult development, an exercise called “the pyramid.” 

The pyramid is a series of runs, starting with a 400 meter, 800 meter and one mile run. Once the one mile run is complete, the series starts over again in a descending order. 

Cooper sites the pyramid as one of the main training differences between high school and collegiate level cross country. 

“Distance has also changed a lot for training, the exercises have gotten a lot more aggressive,” she said.

One of Cooper’s main motivators and running mates this season has been Annika Fisher, who finished second on the team for the Maple Leafs at their latest invitational with a 56th place finish at 20:19. 

“We run together, we push each in workouts, and it helps out a lot.” said Cooper, who also mentioned that while she has achieved success early on, she still has goals to reach this season.

“I’d really liked to be somewhere in the 18:30’s range by the end of the season, just keep working.” she said. 

The men’s and women’s cross country coach Rustin Nyce acknowledged Cooper’s impact on the team’s success.

“Summer is running really well.  She is a great teammate.  She is encouraging to others on the team and keeps things quite fun,” said Nyce. “The women’s team is doing a great job as a whole.  It is exciting that they are young and performing so well. It makes for a bright future.”

Both the mens and womens teams will be back in action, barring any cancellations, at the Midwest Cross Country challenge at Taylor University on Oct. 24.