Women’s cross county cracks NAIA top 25

Story by Megan Henry

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After receiving votes in the NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 poll all season, the Baker University women’s cross country team finally broke into the rankings Monday.

The jump to No. 25 came after the Wildcats finished in 10th place out of 30 teams at the NAIA pre-nationals meet on Saturday in Lawrence.

Senior Lauren Jaqua finished in the top 15 in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 19:01. For her performance, Jaqua earned her third Heart of America Athletic Conference Runner of the Week honor of the season.

Freshman Jillian Benson, who finished in 36th place, had the second fastest time for BU.

The meet took place in Lawrence at Rim Rock Farms, which will host the NAIA national meet on Nov. 23.

“I think the main purpose of this meet was for us to get a feel of the course for nationals,” Benson said. “Definitely for the out-of-state teams who don’t know Rimrock, it gives them a chance to be able and run the course.”

Benson has been training with Jaqua and senior Megan Rosa throughout the season. Running with two upperclassmen has put some pressure on the young runner.

“They’ve really taken me under their wing and hearing where they were at their freshman year and then seeing where they’re at as seniors, it really shows me what I’m capable of doing in four years,” Benson said. “It gives me a lot of hope.”

Rosa was disappointed with her time of 19:37 on Saturday, but said the experience will prepare her if she has the opportunity to race at the national meet.

“Nationals will have a lot of people and a lot of competition, so getting a taste of that I think will really help us feel prepared,” Rosa said. “And the course is pretty tough, there are quite a few hills, so having a preview of that I think will definitely help us in the future.”

The men’s team also competed against 29 other colleges and 272 runners on Saturday. Junior Vincent Tadokoro led the 22nd-place Wildcats, with a time 26:52 in the 8,000-meter race.

Freshman Andrew Dare was not happy with his performance but is concentrating on improvement.

“I didn’t race very well, but I’m just focused on getting better and putting together my race plan,” Dare said.

The Wildcats have the weekend off before they hit the road to compete in the Mid-States Classic on Oct. 26 in Winfield.