The men’s cross country team has qualified for the NAIA National Championship for the second time in the program’s history after finishing fourth overall at Saturday’s Bethel University meet.The men’s cross country team previously qualified in 2014 when the team was led by Doug Yoder as head coach. Current head coach Rustin Nyce was in his first season as an assistant at the time.
The last Nationals trip for a GC team was in 2016 when the women’s basketball team qualified. Before then, the men’s soccer team qualified in 1971, 1973, 1977 and 2006. The women’s basketball team also qualified in 2004. This trip to Vancouver, Washington, will be marked as the eighth for a Maple Leaf team.
Saturday’s meet gave the Maple Leafs the fourth-place slot in the Crossroads League. Kevin Kipkemboi achieved the fifth-fastest time for a sophomore in the program’s history with a time of 25:40.5 to finish 10th at the meet. Kipkemboi was also named all-conference to keep a nine-year streak alive for the Maple Leafs.
Vincent Kibunja, a senior, also had a strong weekend as he placed second behind Kipkemboi and 19th in the 8-kilometer course. Kibunja finished his race with a time of 26:03.6. Kibunja will also appear at the nationals meet after qualifying as an individual. This will be his third time appearing after also qualifying in 2017 and 2018. In the past eight seasons, the Maple Leafs have sent at least one runner to nationals, with 16 men qualifying since 2000.
Following the meet, Nyce picked up his 300th win in his fifth season as the Goshen College men’s cross country head coach. The win placed Nyce second all-time in Goshen College history behind Doug Yoder who has 598 in 11 seasons.
Speaking on the team qualifying for Nationals, Nyce spoke of the team’s dedication that has earned them this achievement.
“I’m really thankful that these guys have earned the privilege to race against the best teams in the country,” he said. “They have spent years running thousands of miles, working hard and making sacrifices to make this possible.”
On the women’s side, the Maple Leafs finished in 10th place on Saturday’s meet. Makayla Collier, a junior, celebrated the best run of her career as she took 58th place overall and led the Maple Leafs for the first time of the season.
Collier finished the 5-kilometer course with a time of 20:28.1. Alena Miller, a first-year, finished just one second after Collier as she took 60th with her final time of the season being 20:29.9.
The 64th Annual NAIA Men’s Cross Country National Championship is set for Friday, Nov. 22, at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in Vancouver, Washington. The Cascade Collegiate Conference serves as a host.