JACKSON, MS - This past weekend, the Trailblazer Cross Country program was able to send both the men's and women's teams to Mississippi for the NCCAA Championship meet. This is the first year in the program's history that both squads have qualified for this event, and expectations were high to see how each team would compete against some of the nations best. The day would start off with the women's 5K race early in the morning. The team would be led by standout runner Ariel Young, who ran the course in 18:30.68, which was a personal record for her this season. Young would finish in 9th place overall. The rest of the team would also run well, as three other runners also accomplished season records on the day. Alyssa Turrentine would finish in 41st place with a time of 20:01.20, while Kara Bandy (21:05.48), Madigan Marshall (21:42.24), and Chanel McFarlin (23:46.08) all finished with personal bests. Overall, the ladies would finish in 10th place out of 14 total schools with a time of 1:45:05.68.
For the men's race, the temperatures rose, creating conditions that OCU was not accustomed to during their season. With that being said, the team performed well, getting quality performances out of each of the runners. Kyle Benecke would lead the way, finishing in 41st place overall with a time of 27:30.98. Canaan Gardner would finish close behind, coming in with a time of 28:06.30. The rest of the team was rounded out by Dylan Newton (28:15.86), Sam Church (28:53.24), Hayden Mink (29:00.53), and Brock Shick (33:56.77). Overall, the men finished in 11th place out of 17 total schools with a time of 2:21:46.91.
"This weekend was a big step for our program and almost every girl on the team ran a personal best. Ariel set a new school record and became our first NCCAA DI All-American. The boys didn't qualify last year and they finished 11th this year, which is a big jump in improvement. Our girls were second to last last year and this year they were 10th, reaching their team goal," said Head Coach Eric Hamner. "They do such a good job of keeping Christ as the center of our team and running to glorify Him. He has been so faithful to this team and I believe that is in large part of how devoted they are to building His Kingdom."