Both men’s and women’s cross country teams traveled just up the road to St. Patrick’s Park in South Bend this past Friday evening to compete in the Bethel College Invitational. The men claimed a top-10 finish while the women tabbed 14th.Steven Cranston, a sophomore, topped teammate Vincent Kibunja for the first time this season, posting a season-best mark to finish ninth overall. Cranston’s time of 26:08.4 was nearly 13 seconds quicker than his previous season best and just 50 ticks behind race winner Tony Floyd of Madonna University. His ninth-place finish put him second among Crossroads League runners.
Kibunja, Goshen’s pace man in the last two races, was held out of the top spot on the team for the first time in his three races this fall. The transfer from Monroe College still crossed the line 20th overall for the Leafs, finishing seventh among CL foes in 26:35.6.
Juan Perez, Salvador Escamilla and Brenner Burkholder were the only other Leaf runners to snag top-50 individual times. Burkholder, one of three Goshen seniors competing in the invitational, legged out the eight-kilometer (4.97-mile) trail in 27:52.3 to finish 49th out of 179 competing runners from 14 different colleges and universities. His finish now serves as his career best, replacing the 27:59.44 that had stood in that place for only six days.
Farther down the lineup, Irving Suarez, a first-year, knocked 7.9 seconds off his career-best time to finish in 31:58.2. Trever Yoder made his season debut to become GC’s 15th runner of the year. He was 13th on the team with a time of 31:10.1.
Cornerstone University, Taylor University and Aquinas College finished as the top three schools, in that order. There were six other Crossroads League schools competing in the event; Goshen finished third of that group and sixth overall. Goshen’s 157 team points put them 54 points ahead of Indiana Tech, which was 21st in the NAIA coaches poll last week, and within a dozen points of 16th-ranked Madonna.
In the women’s race, Nora Rangel finished the five-kilometer trek three places behind counterpart Chelsea Foster, but still surpassed her previous career-best time by 20 seconds. Rangel’s time of 19:36.8 bested her previous low posted in her college debut at the 2016 IWU Twilight Classic. The sophomore’s best penciled her in at the 36th overall slot of 203 competing racers.
Foster was just three places and four seconds quicker than Rangel, claiming the team’s best finish at 33rd overall in 19:32.1. Coming off her own career-best time in Kentucky six days earlier, Foster slowed by nearly 25 seconds but still registered the second-best finish of her season and career. She finished 12th among Crossroads League runners while Rangel was 14th.
Teammate Sierra Ross Richer is the only Leaf to have dethroned Foster from the team’s top spot this season, doing so in the team’s second race of the season at the Crossroads League Preview.
With Ross Richer not competing Friday, Jill Steinmetz, a senior, rounded out Goshen’s top-100 finishers by coming in 60th with a time of 20:12.9. Steinmetz’s mark was just five seconds off of her career best, set last weekend at the Louisville Sports Commission Cross Country Classic, and was the third-best of her career.
Three more Maple Leafs set new career best times by margins ranging from 1.5 seconds (Jenae Stutzman) to almost a minute and a half (Mackenzie Porter). Megan Graber, a sophomore, was the third Goshen runner to lower her career best, coming in at 22:58.2, setting a new career low for the seventh time in nine races.
While the bulk of Goshen’s improvement came toward the bottom of the team score (Stutzman, Graber and Porter finished fifth, sixth and seventh on the team), GC still came within a second of its best combined top-two time this fall. The margin was less than six seconds combined for the top three.
The Maple Leaf women and men will travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan on Saturday, October 21st to compete in the NAIA Great Lakes Invitational. The men’s race is set to begin at 11 a.m., followed by the women at noon.