The cross country teams ended their 2023 season in Vancouver, Washington, at the NAIA National Championships. The women finished 15th in the nation, and the men finished 16th. This was the first time the women’s team made it to the championships, and the men’s fifth straight visit. For both teams, it was their best overall performance in school history.Mercy Chebet was named an All-American for her 34th-place finish out of 331 runners. Chebet was in 128th place at the one-mile mark of the 6K (3.73-mile) race, but moved into the top 40 — the cutoff to qualify as an All-American — by the 5K mark. Chebet came into the meet holding the school record in the 6K; she beat her own record at nationals with a time of 22:28.1.
The Goshen women came into the meet ranked No. 20 in the NAIA, but their 15th-place performance bested two top-10 teams, No. 9 Montreat and No. 8 Concordia (Nebraska).
Annika Alderfer Fisher placed 93rd of 331 and Naomi Ross Richer came in 95th. Abigael Murgor and Mia Wellington came in 171st and 172nd, respectively. Stephany Claudio was 203rd and Summer Cooper placed 232nd.
Mathew Keitany was the top finisher for the Leafs on the men’s side, in 58th place out of 328 runners, with a time of 25:52.8 in the 8K race. Drew Hogan was next for Goshen in 107th. Nelson Kemboi placed 117th, Jackson Steinmetz came in 145th, and Edwin Kimutai came in 160th. Jacob Friesen and Anthony Roberts followed in 215th and 221st.
Keitany kept a positive mindset during his race. He said, “[I] focus to be happy, and not put too much thought on [the] end results, just to race.”
Head coach Rustin Nyce was named the all-time winningest cross country coach at GC earlier this season. When asked about the year, he said the team “had training plans, and we stuck to it, and we made some adjustments, but didn’t get too caught up in early results. What we were working on was affirming.”
To mentally prepare his teams for the race, he told them, “You made it, no one can take it away from you … this is your free shot, so go send it. … What you have done has allowed you to be at this point; you don’t need to be different.”
Hogan ran almost the entire race without his left shoe. “There was a big straightaway, and then, the first turn of the race, someone stepped on it and ripped it, so I kicked it off completely.” He said he was focused on “just running and racing, the same thing he always does, trying not to overthink it.”
Murgor said the teams were “preparing for cross country since the beginning of June, with various phases of physical training. … Rustin created individualized training plans to suit the needs of each athlete. Our training regimen focuses on running and other aspects such as recovery, healthy eating and adequate rest.”
Her favorite memory from the season was “hearing that both men’s and women’s teams were making it to nationals.”
Alderfer Fisher said, “The race was tough but exciting. It was great to have lots of fans on the course.” The historical moment was special for her: “It was deeply satisfying to line up with my teammates and know we were doing something [that had] never been done before.”
The indoor track and field season starts on Dec. 1 at Notre Dame for the Blue and Gold Invitational.