The course was fast, the weather was nearly perfect, and the competition was very tough at The JennaStrong Fall Classic at Wilmington College on Friday. There were four states represented as 46 total teams showed up to compete. On August 31, 2013, Jenna Parlette collapsed while leading the Franklin Invitational and passed away 3 days later. Jenna was a student-athlete who overcame many medical obstacles in her life to become an outstanding runner. To celebrate Jenna's life, the invitational was renamed The JennaStrong Fall Classic. Jenna worked tirelessly in support of Epilepsy awareness. To continue Jenna's efforts, everything associated with The JennaStrong Fall Classic was purple (purple represents the international color for epilepsy) and many runners from all colleges, including Ohio Christian, were sporting purple in support.
The biggest news of the day for the Trailblazers was Sophomore Kyle Benecke breaking the school record for 8k with a 26:28 while he led the young team as they crushed the NCCAA National qualifying standard as a team. Both the men and women are now qualified to the National Meet in Clinton, MS on November 12th. This is the first time in the program's short history that the teams have qualified in NCCAA Division I. Freshman Canaan Gardner set a new personal best with a 27:10 while Junior Dylan Newton was close behind, crushing his personal best with a 27:27. Freshman Sam Church (28:01) had his breakout race after recovering from an early season illness to be the fourth scorer for the Trailblazers while Freshman Hayden Mink (28:19) was hot on his trail with a personal best. The team averaged 27:30 improving their previous average by over two minutes. "The freshmen are finally adjusting to collegiate running and to the 8k distance. We are also learning to run well while we are tired. We are a couple weeks away from tapering to peak for the most important meets of the year so we are still capable of so much more, but I am very proud of how far they have come in such a short period of time," stated coach Eric Hamner. The team, 23rd overall, beat more teams than they have ever beaten in one race. The team was ranked 7th in the River States Conference but was still able to upset the formerly 4th ranked team in IU-East and the men just missed 3rd ranked Asbury.
The women's performances were saturated with personal bests as well. While not having a great race due to some health concerns, Sophomore Ariel Arellano-Young was still able to lead the women's team with a 29th place (out of 366 runners) performance. Freshman Aly Turrentine was closing in on her with a new personal best of 19:54 for the 5k course. Junior Kara Bandy ran her collegiate best with a 21:22, and despite battling illness during the race, Freshman Madigan Marshall, held on for a solid performance. Senior rookie Chanel Mcfarlin ran her personal best by over a minute to round out the scorers for the Trailblazers while Freshman Zarria Williams, Junior Faith Layman, and Sophomore Hannah Laug followed suit with huge personal bests. "This is the best 5k performance we have had thus far, but we are by no means firing on all cylinders. When the girls are back to full strength we will see another huge drop by this hard-working and dedicated ladies team. We have just enough time to make that happen and I am certain it will ," says coach Eric Hamner. "God is watching over this team and He is a faithful God that this team loves and worships with the gifts He gave them. We praise Him through the highs and lows that all teams face and we trust He will uphold them. He never fails." The women's team also placed 23rd beating more teams than they have ever beaten.
The teams will both compete again at Rio Grande on Friday, October 21st.