The NCCAA DI National Championships. That has been the focus of months of work and preparation for the College of the Ozarks Cross Country teams. From the late summer heat to a chilly 48 degrees; from sunny skies to a cold rain, the Bobcats and Lady Cats could be seen running and preparing for meet days throughout the season. Saturday, the day they had been training for arrived. The NCCAA DI National Championship meet was set to take place in Joplin, Missouri and the Bobcats and Lady Cats, though dealing with a series of injuries and illness, were primed and ready to hit the course.
The weekend began with the NCCAA teams participating in a Christian Service Project at God’s Resort, a Christ-centered transitional housing community. The teams were able to contribute to and support the mission of God’s Resort – “to help people, through a Christ-centered community, to choose freedom from the past and reach their potential as children of God.”
Race Day began with the women’s 5k and the Lady Bobcats had trained hard in preparation. With the top ten finishers achieving All-American status, the target had been established. The Lady Cats were once again led in the chase by Abigayle Money. Money turned in a time of 18:55.98, good for an eighth-place finish overall and All-American honors. Emily Staal narrowly missed All-American status with her time of 19:16.44 and a 13th place finish. Janelle Staal finished with a time of 19:36.93 in 19th place. Lauren Cowden clocked in at 20:12.44, Jacqueline O’Harver – 20:59.71, Trinity Sadosky – 21:36.27, and Rebecca Loya recorded a time of 23:27.09. The Lady Cats’ combined times was good for fourth place overall, just one point shy of third place.
The Men’s 8k race was the culminating event and the Bobcats were ready to put their season of training on the line. Since busting on the scene of Bobcat Cross Country this fall, transfer student, Janvier Irakoze has been a constant leader on the course. Meet after meet Irakoze finished at or near the top of the leader board and the National Championship meet would be no different. Irakoze once again led the Bobcats and finished just short of the National Championship with his third-place time of 25:54.73. Cole Chafin turned in a time of 27:57.36, in 28th place. Wesley Moore was right on his teammate’s heels with a time of 28:01. Garrett Pierce, who had been running on the heels of Irakoze early in the season, had battled back from an Achilles injury to compete in the national meet, and recorded a time of 28:36.43. Spencer Dyck finished out the Bobcat times recording a 30:32.30.
“I’m really proud of our athletes’ accomplishments this season.”, said Coach Clint Woods. “They kept improving each meet and ran some of their best times at the championship race. Both our men’s and women’s teams had individual All-American finishes and I’m really proud of all the work they put in to make that happen.”
The Bobcats and Lady Cats will take a little time to relax but will soon set their sights on a return trip to the National Championships in 2022.