Men’s cross country team clinches HAAC title

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Men’s cross country team clinches HAAC title

Story by Sara

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As the defending Heart of America Athletic Conference champions, the Baker University men’s cross country team had been working to reclaim its title all season.

The Wildcats achieved just that Nov. 3 by grabbing five spots in the top 10 during the HAAC Championships in Lamoni, Iowa.

“Our main goal all year has been to get to nationals,” senior Taylor Nall said. “Winning the HAAC was just another step of getting to nationals, but it was very exciting doing so well in our conference.”

Freshman Jeremy Bryan finished the regular season similar to how he began his college career, with a first-place finish. Bryan ran a time of 25:13 in the 8,000-meter race, which broke the Baker record set by senior Aaron Caldwell earlier in the season.

Senior Eric Larson, Nall and freshman Justin Bryan packed together finishing the race in fifth, sixth and seventh place, respectively. Caldwell rounded out the top five runners for BU as he ran a time of 26:33, which was good for a 10th-place finish.

The Wildcats landed 45 points ahead of runner-up Missouri Valley College and will represent the HAAC in the NAIA National Championships Saturday in Vancouver, Wash.

Head coach Zach Kindler was also recognized as the HAAC Men’s Coach of the Year.

For the first time during his career at Baker, Kindler had runners on both teams claim individual championships.

For the second straight season, junior Lauren Jaqua led all conference runners in the women’s 5,000-meter race. She ran a time of 18:11 and will represent the Wildcats at the NAIA National Championships for the third time in her career.

“To have Lauren and Jeremy step up the way they did and to continue running they way the have all season, it just shows where our program is at and what those two are doing as well.”

Although Baker finished second behind Central Methodist University for a second-straight season, junior Ashley McBride and sophomore Kerry Kurta qualified for the national meet alongside Jaqua by finishing eighth and ninth, respectively.

McBride finished with a time of 19:08 and Kurta ran it in 19:20. Junior Megan Rosa rounded out the top 20 for the Wildcats with a 13th-place finish.

Despite its second-place finish, McBride said she is happy the team held nothing back during its performance.

“Central Methodist just brought it,” McBride said. “I think our team laid it all out there. I think we did what we could, it just wasn’t what we needed I guess because we got second, but I don’t think we held anything back so there are no regrets out there.”

Saturday will mark Jaqua and McBride’s third trip to the national meet. The pair qualified individually in 2011 and ran with the HAAC championship team during their freshman year. This will be Kurta’s first appearance in the NAIA National Championships.

“I think that if they go out and run the way they are capable of running we could we some pretty exciting stuff; potentially even All-Americans,” Kindler said