As the NAIA cross-country season began last week, the Goshen College men’s and women’s teams both appeared in the preseason national coaches’ poll. 

The men’s team, which finished 24th at the NAIA National Championship last year, are now ranked 23rd in the nation, while the women’s team received votes. 

“I always have a word for the year, and this year that word is process,” said head coach Rustin Nyce. 

“I don’t want to focus on the national meet; we need to focus on doing the right steps throughout the whole process to get ourselves where we want to be in October and November.” 

“The goal is to just stay as process-focused as possible, but with the bigger picture being: How do we compete at the end of the season and get…both teams to the national championships?”

That process began last week, when the women ran their first race of the year last Friday at the Mastodon XC Opener. 

Led by top-10 finishes from Summer Cooper and Annika Alderfer Fisher, Goshen finished third out of five teams, ahead of Grace College and Lourdes University.

Both teams that finished ahead of the Leafs — Purdue Fort Wayne and IUPUI — were Division I schools.

Cooper finished eighth overall with a 5K time of 19:19. Fellow junior Alderfer Fisher crossed the line at 19:31.5, with Naomi Ross Richer on her heels at 19:32.3, good enough for 10th and 12th places, respectively. 

The top five runners were rounded out with another junior, Mia Wellington, running a 21:07 for 29th place, and first-year Teresa Ross Richer finishing 35th with a time of 21:46. 

The next race for the women is on Sept. 17, at IU-Kokomo. Meanwhile, the men open their season on Friday at the Twilight Invite at Indiana Wesleyan University.